Guy W. Farmer: Climate change and NY Times

In recent weeks I wrote a column about political correctness on American college campuses, highlighting a couple of incidents where conservative speakers weren’t allowed to speak because of their politically incorrect messages. Well, I’m sorry to report the same thing is happening in the mainstream media. It’s a cause for concern and a challenge to the concept of a free press.

Exhibit “A” in media world is the venerable, and very liberal, New York Times, America’s “newspaper of record,” which had the temerity to publish a column challenging liberal orthodoxy on the touchy topic of climate change. In his first Times column, conservative journalist Bret Stephens, who previously worked for the Wall Street Journal, wrote climate change may not be “settled science.” All hell broke loose; many Times subscribers canceled their subscriptions while others looked for “safe spaces” where they could play with Legos.

Quoting a recent Pew Research Center poll, Stephens wrote just 36 percent of Americans care “a great deal’” about climate change. “Despite 30 years of efforts by scientists, politicians and activists to raise the alarm, nearly two-thirds of Americans are either indifferent to, or only somewhat bothered by, the prospect of planetary calamity,” he continued, adding “claiming total certainty about science ... creates doubt whenever a climate claim proves wrong.”

That’s when a great tidal wave of caterwauling and outrage engulfed the New York Times. How dare they publish such heresy? Apparently, when it comes to climate change and other PC topics, Times subscribers want to read opinions they agree with rather than to be challenged by dissenting opinions. Fortunately, the Appeal publishes opinion columns on both sides of this contentious issue. I’m thinking of you, Anne Macquarie, and you, Fred LaSor. Can’t we all just get along?

Business Insider reported “Stephens’ column set off a firestorm of criticism from prominent scientists and activists, which prompted some Times readers to cancel their subscriptions.” Scientists took issue with what they said were Stephens’ “mischaracterizations of the certainties and uncertainties of climate change.” “I find their reaction odd,” the columnist replied, “given that I acknowledge global warming and the potential severity of its consequences.”

Like Stephens and my friend LaSor, I acknowledge the existence of climate change but question the degree to which it’s caused by human activity, which makes me a climate change skeptic, not a denier. I simply don’t think there’s any foolproof scientific way to measure the real impact of human activity on global climate, which has undergone multiple cooling and warming cycles through the centuries. As Stephens wrote, climate change models are imprecise because of “the earth’s complexity and how difficult it is to measure a massive, uncontrolled environment like global temperature,” which makes sense to me.

This lively discussion transpires as President Trump considers whether to withdraw from the Paris Climate Change Accords. The well-funded climate change lobby wants to spend millions, if not trillions (with a “t”), of our tax dollars to comply with requirements of the amorphous 2015 Paris Accords (not a treaty) that blamed the U.S. and gas-fueled vehicles for global warming. Therefore, our critics say, we should pay vast sums of money to atone for our climatological and ecological sins. Needless to say, we would be held to much higher air quality standards than so-called “developing” nations like Brazil, China, India and Mexico. What else do you want to know about the Paris Accords?

As Stephens wrote, “Perhaps if there were less certainty about our climate future, more Americans would be interested in having a reasoned conversation about it.” Yes we would.

Guy W. Farmer, a retired diplomat, is a climate change skeptic.


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