Climate Scientist to NYTimes. Cancel My Sub

April 27, 2017

New York Times hires more reporters for climate issues. And a climate denying columnist.
Oceanographer Stefan Rahmstorf cancels subscription

To the executive editor

The New York Times

27 April 2017, via email

Dear editor,

I am a climate researcher, professor for physics of the oceans and have worked for eight years as advisor to the German government on global change issues. I regret to have to tell you that hereby I cancel my subscription to the New York Times in the wake of you hiring columnist Bret Stephens. Let me explain my reasons.

When Stephens was hired I wrote to you in protest about his spreading of untruths about climate change, saying “I enjoy reading different opinions from my own, but this is not a matter of different opinions.” I did not cancel then but decided to wait and see. However, the subsequent public defense by the New York Times of the hiring of Stephens has convinced me that the problem at the Times goes much deeper than a single error of judgement. It concerns its attitude towards seeking the truth.

The Times argued that “millions agree with Stephens”. It made me wonder what’s next – when are you hiring a columnist claiming that the sun and the stars revolve around the Earth, because millions agree with that? My heroes are Copernicus, Galilei and Kepler, who sought the scientific truth based on observational evidence and defended it against the powerful authority of the church in Rome, at great personal cost. Had the New York Times existed then – would you have seen it as part of your mission to insult and denigrate these scientists, as Stephens has done with climate scientists?

The Times has denounced the critics of its decision as “left-leaning”. This is an insult to me and was the final straw to cancel my subscription. There is no left-leaning or right-leaning climate science, just as there is no republican or democrat theory of gravity. I have several good climate scientist friends who have been lifelong republicans. Their understanding of climate change does not differ from mine, because it is informed by the evidence.

Quite unlike Stephens’ views on climate change, which run counter to all evidence. He is simply repeating falsehoods spread by various “think tanks” funded by the fossil fuel industry.

In December 2015, Stephens called global warming “imperceptible” and the Paris climate summit a “meeting to combat a notional enemy in the same place where a real enemy just inflicted so much mortal damage”. My colleagues and I have analysed 150,000 temperature time series from around the world, finding that monthly heat records occur five times more often now as a result of global warming than in an unchanging climate (Coumou et al, published in Climatic Change2013). One of those record-hot months was August 2003 in western Europe. 70,000 people died due to this heat wave. Was global warming “imperceptible” to these people and the ones they left behind? On 15 August 2003, the New York Times reported: “So many bodies were delivered in recent weeks to the Paris morgue that refrigerated tents had to be erected outside the city to accommodate them all.” Was that just a “notional” problem?

Stephens doubts that global warming will continue, claiming that in hundred years “temperatures will be about the same”. That is a shockingly ignorant statement, ignoring over a century of climate science. Our emissions increase the level of CO2 in the atmosphere, it is higher now than in at least 3 million years. CO2 is a greenhouse gas, as demonstrated first in the year 1859 by physicist John Tyndall. CO2 traps heat – more CO2 means a warmer climate. That is basic physics, borne out by the history of climate. Denying these well-established facts is about as smart as claiming the Earth is flat, and best left to cranks, ideologues and fossil fuel lobbyists.

Stephens has claimed that “in the 1970s we were supposed to believe in global cooling.” That’s an age-old climate denier myth. It would have cost Stephens just 60 seconds with Google to find out it is wrong. (Try and google “Did scientists predict an ice age in the 1970s”.) But Stephens is clearly not interested in evidence or seeking the truth about matters.

Last Friday, you sent me an email with the subject: “The truth is more important now than ever.” It made me cringe seeing this in my inbox. It said “thank you for supporting news without fear or favor.” The hypocrisy of that is unbearable, and I will support your newspaper no more. Instead, I will give the money to ClimateFeedback.org, a worldwide network of scientists sorting fact from fiction in climate change media coverage. It is much better invested there.

Best regards,

Prof. Stefan Rahmstorf

I interviewed Rahmstorf, Michael Mann, and Jason Box for this vid about Atlantic circulation and climate change.

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25 Responses to “Climate Scientist to NYTimes. Cancel My Sub”

  1. Ron Voisin Says:

    They were wrong in 1859, as now.

    But remember…Be vewy, vewy scared.

  2. SmarterThanYourAverageBear Says:

    well done Prof. Rahmstorf. Now is the time for everyone concerned about climate change to follow suit and cancel their NYT subscription.

    • andrewfez Says:

      NYT failed to apply any skepticism to the Weapons of Mass Destruction claim by the Bush administration, whilst the Washington Post published their “Irrefutable” article which claimed that the evidence presented to Congress about WMD’s was irrefutable, or quoted Joe Biden who said it was irrefutable. Years later NYT was writing hit pieces on Tesla Motors. And after Trump came in NYT promised to ‘do better’.

      I’ve never been a subscriber or a subscriber to the notion I should pay to have propaganda delivered to my front porch.

  3. J4Zonian Says:

    Stephens is so, so wrong in the second video–fractally wrong. Lomborgian argument about other priorities, red herrings with a false expert sauce. The Galileo Gambit. 70s cooling. Faux pause. Lied about (Freudian slip made him say “inexpensive” but I’m sure he meant to say “expensive”) not mature technologies (wind, solar, batteries, geothermal, wave and tide, smart grid infrastructure…). Joe Romm’s German thread count fallacy. A little of everything and near (not at) the bottom is refusal to face reality, or rather, unwillingness to ever be tied to reality in case it’s emotionally inconvenient at times. Beneath that for many denying delayalists are probably attachment problems at least.

    Is anyone checking on the truth (chortle) of Stephens’ claims about NYT 1935 ocean warning? I think environmental generational amnesia or shifting baseline syndrome means he’s unaware that we have had ocean piscocide for a long time–90% of the large fish in the sea have disappeared since 1950. What about the degradation and shifting baseline between say, 1880 and 1935? Was there a justified lament then? And 1935-1950? I’ve lost the reference but heard a radio interview with an author, about shifting baseline–people standing on the shore of the west coast of the US and smelling whale breath as they migrated by, there were so many. Just one of several categories of outcome that make the Galileo Gambit nonsense.

    Warming is not man-made; women did some, too.

    • ubrew12 Says:

      “Lomborgian argument about other priorities” How is that a thing anyway? Did we argue, in 1940, that we couldn’t take action against Hitler because, Wow!, polio?

  4. mboli Says:

    Read almost any newspaper in America and you find they run opinion columns from a variety of positions. It is no anomaly to pick up the newspaper and find a syndicated columnist such as Krauthammer or Coulter peddling climate denial.

    I’d have to give up newspapers.

    But I do get it that if a paper chose to hire a denier opinion pundit on staff, and that were my life’s work, I might well do the same as Rahmstorf.

    • Marco Says:

      It’s more the argument that the NYT used to hire him, which is in essence an Appeal to Popularity, and trying to portray all those who disagreed as “left-leaning”.

      I wonder what excuse they’d use if they hired Andrew Wakefield as a columnist, and people disagreed. Are they “right-leaning” or “left-leaning”? Anti-vaxxers seem to be about equally distributed among the left and the right, so they’ll need to come up with another word to put these people in a box with a label that makes it easy to dismiss them.


  5. Claire and I cancelled both our Sunday print subscription and our digital full access subscription tonight, with full informing as to precisely why.

  6. neilrieck Says:

    Poor coverage of climate science was the main reason I ended a 30-year subscription to Scientific American in 2008. That’s when I began subscribing to New Scientist. (to be fair, Scientific American was covering climate issues at their website; I can only assume that they put very little of this into their magazines for fear of hurting sales)

  7. dannybloom Says:

    Peter .. The new editor of the nyt climate desk is Hannah Fairfield wallander, college grad in 1996. Her nyt professional background was 17 years as an art director and page designer. Zero background in climate science. Strange choice for top climate editor at nyt. Here is her back story from my research blog http://cli-fi-books.blogspot.com

  8. toby52 Says:

    A friend actually subscribed to NYT because it thought it needed help when Trump came into power.

    I am sure others felt the same.

    This is how the NYT thanks them – by fawning over Trump’s viewpoint on climate.

    I was considering subscribing myself, but am now relieved that I didn’t.


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