A Climate Change Embarrassment at the NYT

In case you haven’t been paying attention, Bret Stephens wrote his first op-ed column for the New York Times this weekend, and it’s worse than I feared.

Here’s the argument in a nutshell, peppered with sophisticated-sounding words like “traduces” and “overweening” that are meant to distract you from it’s vapidity: Climate Change may be right, and hey – on the other hand, it is right and we all know it’s right, but because Hillary Clinton’s team lost the election, nobody can ever actually be right about anything.

The problem, he says, is that we’re all so gosh-darned certain about things. If only we’d have some doubt, we could maybe convince people who already have doubt to give up their doubt. (Yes, I’m scratching my head at this point.)

No, the problem here isn’t that people trust the conclusions of the data and use that to form a viewpoint, even if they’re really sure it’s correct. It’s that people who are once faced with an incorrect conclusion lose all trust in everything. Let’s say this again: just because someone is wrong once doesn’t mean they’re always wrong about everything. Granted, there’s historically been a bit of an arms race here, and presumably some people have raised their alarm higher because raising it a little bit only had the effect of people ignoring it and thinking it wasn’t a big problem. More hysteria, such as there is, is a response to lack of response to rational discourse. “None of this is to deny climate change or the possible severity of its consequences.” he writes, and naturally all of it does.

But even if all of that was accurate, I’m having trouble seeing what the argument here is. What’s the upside to climate change denialism? Mostly increased profits for petroleum companies and the people who own land with petroleum deposits? The desire to prove those dastardly scientists wrong once and for all? For everyone else, not so much. Sustainable energy, if we concentrate on it and develop it, shows every indication of being not only cleaner, but also better for the economy than petroleum ever was. Sustainable energy already provides more jobs. And it’s just getting started.

Why are we fucking defending pollution again? We can have cleaner air and water, and better economic growth. Let’s do that. Happy Loyalty Day!