New York Times publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr. is now defending the newspaper’s decision to hire a climate change denier Bret Stephens last month. As Slate pointed out, “Stephens suggests that the rational way to go forward with a conversation about climate change is to admit that climate change might not be certain”. Sulzberger sent a “personal note” to the subscribers who cancelled citing Stephens’ opninion column (denying climate change) in hopes to win their business (and trust?) back. I have some problems with the note.
First, it’s worth underscoring that The Times’s newsroom, which functions separately from our Opinion department and is led by executive editor Dean Baquet, has sharply expanded the team of reporters and editors who cover climate change. No subject is more vital.
The implication here is that the newsroom and the Opinions department have a firewall between them. The problem is two-fold. First, the reporters in the newsroom and the commentators in Opinions get paid alike by the same organization. Second, the content written by the reporters, and the opinions get published on the same platform. Both types of content have approximately the same reach among the same audience.
Moreover in this specific case, the work of one opinion columnist invalidated years of work by dozens of newsroom reporters and thousands of scientists.
Our editorial page editor, James Bennet, and I believe that this kind of debate, by challenging our assumptions and forcing us to think harder about our positions, sharpens all our work and benefits our readers. This does not mean that The Times will publish any commentary. Some points of view are not welcome, including those promoting prejudice or denying basic truths about our world.
Climate change is a well-studied and well-proven phenomenon with severe implications for humanity, this planet and everything else on it. Here’s a sliver of the reporting the brilliant journalists and scientists have done in the NYT:
- Warmer Waters Could Scuttle Activity of Crabs
- Climate Change Could Harm British Butterflies
- Climate Change Seen as Threat to Iberian Lynx
- U.N. Climate Panel Endorses Ceiling on Global Emissions
- Climate Change Seen Posing Risk to Food Supplies
In 2015, 195 nations came together in Paris to acknowledge the effects of climate change, and agree to do something about it. In fact, NYT reported on it, and NYT reporter Justin Gillis was quoted saying “The planet is under threat from human emissions, and the Paris climate deal is, at best, a first step toward fixing the problem”.
What we know to be true of climate change:
- Global temperatures are rising faster than ever before. (NASA)
- Towns are drowning amid rising sea levels. (WIRED)
- People are being displaced. (UNHCR)
- Animals are dying. (See some links above)
- It is real.
I’m all for being open-minded about how much worse it can get, or how specific models get their math wrong about sea-level rises. I am not going to be open-minded about the fundamental fact that climate change is real.
Now more than ever, facts and scientific evidence are important. Giving a voice to them is important. The effects of climate change will hurt people whether they believe it exists. When a tsunami hits, it won’t discriminate between liberals or conservatives. Famine will cause starvation even if people manipulated the data to cozy up the lobby. Coral reefs will die no matter which party is leading the White House.
So my question to the NYT is this: What will it take to stop you from giving climate change deniers your platform? How many more people have to be displaced? How many degrees does the global temperature have to rise? How many more species of plants and animals have to go extinct?
My DM is open.