Monthly Archives: April 2017

Are we alarmed yet?

Climate science deniers like to call we who are correct and rational (we the good guys) “alarmists.” So be it.

This is a post that closely reflects my own feelings, by my friend and colleague, Lawrence Torcello. It begins:

Most of us have wondered about the human context of past crimes against humanity: why didn’t more people intervene? How could so many pretend not to know? To be sure, crimes against humanity are not always easy to identify while they unfold.

We need some time to reflect and to analyze, even when our reasoning suggests that large scale human suffering and death are likely imminent. The principled condemnation of large scale atrocity is, too often


Climate March April 29: A few videos and tweets

Taking The Axe To The Environmental Movement: Resolute v. Greenpeace

A major Canadian logger appears to be using a pair of law suits to end the existence of Greenpeace and to stop or curtail pro-environmental activities by other organizations operating in North America, or perhaps, generally.

This activity is being carried out by Resolute Forest Products. This is a rapidly developing story. Aside from the usual sources of information, I had a long conversation with a representative of Greenpeace. I also refer you to this blog post.

Resolute Forest Products is one of North America’s largest converters of forest into pulp, ultimately to be used to make paper. They do other things as well. Back in 2010, Resolute Forest Products joined a group of 30 entities, including other forestry companies as well as environmental organizations such as Greenpeace. The group, called the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, intended to reduce negative impacts on the northern boreal forests caused by companies like Resolute.

Resolute, for its part, is said to have stonewalled movement in any positive direction, and eventually, Greenpeace Canada and others dropped out of the agreement. Greenpeace Canada then produced a report, in May 2013, outlining alleged deception by Resolute about the sustainability of their products. Generally, Greenpeace has been encouraging pulp customers to select producers that log sustainably, and that appears to annoy Resolute. That started a relatively complex back and forth between Resolute and Greenpeace, and other Canadian stakeholders, including a $7 million defamation suite by resolute against Greenpeace Canada as well as two of its staff members.

To get caught up on the environmental arguments concerns at hand, see Endangered Forests in the Balance: The impact of logging reaches new heights in the Montagnes Blanches Endangered Forest.

And now this ongoing battle is heating up again.

At present, there are two new significant suits by Resolute Forest Products, one against Greenpeace Canada, the other against Greenpeace International. The latter is said to have been filed in the US because the limitations on liability are much higher; Indeed, the Canadian suit is for millions, while the US based suit is for hundreds of millions. Along with these legal actions, Resolute is, again, directly attacking individuals and not just the company.

It is generally believed by observers that Resolute intends to use this legal action to end Greenpeace. Other environmental organizations are concerned that this type of suit may end their efforts as well.

Many will consider this a SLAPP suit. This is a “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.” A SLAPP “… is intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition. Such lawsuits have been made illegal in many jurisdictions on the grounds that they impede freedom of speech.*

The US based law suit uses RICO statute. RICO stands for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and was created to allow prosecutors important tools to go after previously nearly untouchable organized crime entities. Apparently, legal experts view the RICO suit against Greenpeace International to be absurd and unwinnable. That is what would make it a SLAPP. All Resolute has to do is pour a few tens of millions into the effort, and Greenpeace will have to give in. Unless, of course, judges throw the suits out early enough.

In addition to going after Greenpeace, Resolute has named as an additional target in their RICO suit. (See this for a list of the many legal documents related to these suits). From

Can a lumber company sue its grassroots public interest critics? While some courts say no, yesterday Resolute Forest Products filed a civil RICO lawsuit in United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia. Incredibly, the suit complains that Greenpeace and Stand (formerly ForestEthics) have acted as a “criminal enterprise” in their public interest advocacy to stop destructive logging and protect waterways, wildlife, and communities in the boreal forest of Canada.

Stand believes this suit is entirely without merit and is a clear attempt to silence its most powerful grassroots critics. In addition, CEO Richard Garneau has overseen multiple free speech lawsuits during his tenure against individuals and organizations, and led the company to five consecutive years of a slumping stock.

Pulp: The coal of the wood industry

Why is this happening? The most obvious reason is that Resolute is tired of having their lack of sustainable practice pointed out to them by organizations like Greenpeace. There may even be a cost to Resolute, in that customers are increasingly demanding that sustainable practices be followed by extractive industries such as logging. Indeed, I expect that one response to the Resolute legal action will be an effort to pressure book publishers to use paper made from sustainably produced pulp.

So there’s that, but there is probably more to it. Resolute is part of a rapidly declining industry: North American pulp. Resolute could scale down its overall expectations and become the sustainable pulp producer. Or, it could barrel into the future full speed ahead, using up whatever expanse of the northern forest it can lay it’s saws on before getting stopped. It seems to be doing the latter.

Over the last fifty years or so, the production of paper has gone up significantly (from tens of millions of tons in 1960 to over 350 millions of tons more recently). People will tell you that the internet killed off paper production, but that seems not quite true. Paper production does not increase each year as much as it formerly did, but it still increases.

But two other things have happened. For one, the amount of paper that is recycled has also gone up, but at a slightly slower rate than overall paper production. So, that shift from 10 to 350 million tons a year of paper, an increase of about 30 times, is actually an increase of about 10 or 15 times for the virgin pulp some paper is made out of. Related is the use of more wood waste to make pulp instead of virgin timber.

The other factor is the shift in pulp and paper production to places other than North America, so from a North American perspective, pulp looks a lot like coal: it is a dying business.

Putting all this together, and you can see that Greenpeace is really Resolute’s smaller problem. The bigger problem is a dramatic and ongoing decline in its own market.

I would have thought this would be the ideal time go go full on rogue sustainable, and be the one company that produces most of the sustainable pulp in a world where North Americans will tolerate nothing else. But apparently I do not work at Resolute, do I?

Stay tuned!

Why are major broadcast networks turning away from coverage of the climate disaster?

From MMFA:

Broadcast networks are decreasing their climate coverage at a time when the case for reporting on the issue is become more and more compelling. By ignoring this serious matter, media are failing to inform audiences about pressing impacts on human migration patterns, women, and the economy.

In 2016, media had no shortage of compelling reasons to cover climate change — from the revelation that it was the third consecutive hottest year on record to the United States’ election of a climate denier to its highest office. Yet broadcast news outlets’ coverage of climate change dropped a whopping 66 percent from 2015 to 2016, making it the third consecutive year of declining coverage.

When media turn a blind eye to climate change, they ignore an issue that will have devastating impacts and multiply existing threats across the globe. According to The New York Times, unmitigated climate change could displace between 50 million and 200 million people by 2050. But the effects of climate change are already visible. Un the U.S. last year, the federal government allocated $48 million in grants to resettle residents of Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana, which represents “the first allocation of federal tax dollars to move an entire community struggling with the impacts of climate change.”

The rest of the story is here.

This video makes several important points, including the differential effect on women, poor, and, well, people on small islands.

Climate Science Removed From EPA Site: WaPo

The EPA has removed climate science from its site in order that the site contents better reflect Donald Trump’s perspective.

From Chris Mooney and Juliet Eilperin at the Washington Post:

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday evening that its website would be “undergoing changes” to better represent the new direction the agency is taking, triggering the removal of several agency websites containing detailed climate data and scientific information.

One of the websites that appeared to be gone had been cited to challenge statements made by the EPA’s new administrator, Scott Pruitt. Another provided detailed information on the previous administration’s Clean Power Plan, including fact sheets about greenhouse gas emissions on the state and local levels and how different demographic groups were affected by such emissions.

The changes came less than 24 hours before thousands of protesters were set to march in Washington…

Go to that article to get the gory details.

By the way, given what is happening at the New York Times, the Washington Post has become the US national level go-to major media for climate change. It helps that Chris Mooney is there, and his coverage is excellent, though there are lots of other writers who cover environmental and climate issues as well. If you happen to be a member of Amazon Prime, you can get the Washington Post free for a period of time (I can’t remember how long, I got mine a long time back) and subscribing isn’t too bad. Once you do the free thing for a while you’ll start getting special offers, and I recommend it. Note that even during a period when I wasn’t subscribing to the Washington Post, I used it as my main major media source for ongoing primaries during the election season, as it had the best organized (though not perfect) site with current results. (Prime or not, perhaps this is a good deal for the paper at Amazon as well: The Washington Post.)

Out of the gate, Bret Stephens punches the hippies, says dumb things

Right in the middle, between the Trump-inspired March for Science, and the Trump-inspired People’s Climate March, the New York times managed to come down firmly on the side of climate and science denial, in its editorial pages.

This week sees the first NYT installment by the ex Wall Street Journal columnist and author Bret Stephens (also former editor of the The Jerusalem Post). He is a professional contrarian, well known for his denial of the importance and reality of climate change, as well as other right wing positions. I assume the New York Times added Stephens to their stable of opinion writers to appease the new Republican Majority in Washington DC. And, maybe that is a good idea. But they should have gone with a principled conservative who is interested in things like facts, rather going with a modern philistine like this guy.

Just consider this all too cute sentence with which he attempts to dazzle his readers.

Anyone who has read the 2014 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change knows that, while the modest (0.85 degrees Celsius) warming of the Northern Hemisphere since 1880 is indisputable, as is the human influence on that warming, much else that passes as accepted fact is really a matter of probabilities.

First, let’s admit that time passes, so a 2014 report based on pre-existing information mainly from a year or two earlier is out of date in 2017, in a dynamic, rapidly changing field like climate change. As I note here, it is becoming increasingly common for climate science deniers to use the aging IPCC report to make an outdated point. The IPCC report is a good starting point for understanding the scientific basis of climate change, but it is not a current document and should not be treated like one. Editors of the New York Times, please take note of this and hold your columnists to a higher standard.

Or, for that matter, hold them to any standard at all with respect to fact checking. Stephens’ 0.85 degrees has to refer to the planet, not the Northern Hemisphere, as he claims. The editors of the New York Times still think the Earth is round, with hemispheres, right? I would hope so. Also, we understand that this average (the 0.85 for the globe, or the higher value for the Northern Hemisphere) is a low ball estimate for two reasons. One is statistical, as explained in the IPCC report Stephens pretends to have read. The other is because the estimates have a problem now being increasingly realized in that they ignore a lot of earlier warming. (This all has to do with baselines and confusions about them, and the often unexamined and incorrect assumption that the first century of burning coal does not count because it was so long ago. Trust me, it counts.)

And, that is not a modest number. It is a significant number, and the warming in the pipeline which will not go away on with wishful thinking from climate contrarian columnists, is an even larger and even more significant number.

But never mind the pesky details such as facts. Or that he separates the indisputable form the probabilistic, when it is all probabilistic and none is indisputable (science is not really ever indisputable). His overall argument is utterly stupid.

Listen: he says that Hillary Clinton read the polling data wrong, a certainty (her victory in November) turned out to not happen, therefore we should not put much stock in a widespread scientific consensus as we have for the basics of climate change. I note, however, that the chance of Clinton winning was around 50-50, and that only one candidate can win. And, oh, yes, she did win the popular vote, which is actually the measure were are talking about when referring to polling data. So, Stephens has that totally wrong. As your analogy goes, so goes the rest of your argument, Bret.

Stephens’ run up to this point involves some very attractive conspiratorial ideation (very attractive if you are a conspiracy theorist, that is) using the argument that the more sure science is of something, the more likely it is to be a complete lie based on a vast conspiracy. That whole idea is so conspiratorial that I was forced to use the word “conspiracy” or a form of it three times in one sentence and five times in one paragraph. How about that?

I’m pretty sure Stephens was listening to the widespread complaints about his hiring at the NYT, and perhaps heeding his masters’ voice in the editorial room, because he does in the end admit that climate change is real and mostly what the scientists say. He has, rather, adopted a rather Revkinesque view of climate change — and I know this is Revkinesque because Stephens blames this half assed idea directly on Andy Revkin twice in this one column. That view is this: Breathless yammering about climate change has now and then emanated from out of control hippies who don’t know the science. Therefore, the science is less certain than the scientists say it is.

OMG, what hogwash. I can rearrange the letters in the name of a great American President to spell hairball conman. Therefore that president was a hairball conman.

What is to be said about a columnist who responds in his first installment to an honest and widespread critique by scientists and their supporters by making so many foolish statements about science? I’m not sure, but wise people say this is a reason to cancel their subscription to the New York Times in protest.

The New York Times has often been a little iffy on climate change, but it has not been a total rag. The Grey Lady’s reputation took a real hit in this area with the addition of Stephens. Even the other writers at the New York Ties are put off by it.

More reactions to Bret Stephens

<li>Sou at Hot Whopper: <a href="">Bret Stephens lowers the bar for intellectual honesty and more @NYTimes</a></li>

In his very first NYT article you’d not have guessed that Bret Stephens had ever been awarded a Pulitzer. You’d not have known that he was a journalist at all, let alone one with any sort of reputation. You’d have thought he was a

<li>Graham Readfearn at Desmog: <a href="">Climate Scientists Cancelling Their New York Times Subscription Over Hiring of Climate Denialist Bret Stephens</a></li>

Stephens wrote several columns while at the WSJ disparaging climate science and climate scientists, which he has collectively described as a “religion” while claiming rising temeperatures may be natural.

The NYT has been defending its decision publicly, saying that “millions of people” agree with Stephens on climate science and just because their readers don’t like his opinions, that doesn’t mean

<li>Dana Nuccitelli at The Guardian: <a href="">NY Times hired a hippie puncher to give climate obstructionists cover</a></li>

Most importantly, the global warming we’ve experience is in no way “modest.” We’re already causing a rate of warming faster than when the Earth transitions out of an ice age, and within a few decades we could be causing the fastest climate change Earth has seen in 50 million years. The last ice age transition saw about 4°C global warming over 1,000 years; humans are on pace to cause that much warming between 1900 and 2100 – a period of just 200 years, with most of that warming happening since 1975.

Of course, how much global warming we see in the coming decades depends on

<li>Joe Romm at Think Progress: <a href="">The NY Times promised to fact check their new climate denier columnist?—?they lied</a></li>

The very first column the New York Times published by extreme climate science denier Bret Stephens is riddled with errors, misstatements, unfair comparisons, straw men, and logical fallacies.

Leading climatologist Dr. Michael Mann emailed ThinkProgress: “This column confirms my worst fear: That the NY Times management is now willingly abetting climate change denialism.”

<li>Osita Nwanevu in Slate on <a href="">Bret Stephens sexist and racist remarks about rape</a></li>

Here is Stephens’ exchange on campus rape:

Jeff Stein: You wrote, “If modern campuses were really zones of mass predation — Congo on the quad — why would intelligent young women even think of attending a coeducational school?” My question to you is: Isn’t it necessary for women to attend these coeducational schools for their economic and educational advancement? Isn’t it possible that’s why they’d be there even if there’s a higher risk of sexual assault?

Bret Stephens: Of course it is. But if sexual assault rates in, let’s say, east Congo were about 20 percent, most people wouldn’t travel to those places. Because that is in fact — or, that would be, in fact, the risk of being violently sexually assaulted.

(I’d like to point out that a traveller’s chance of rape in a “place like E. Congo” is not the same as the chance of a woman who lives there. Not that it is a particularly safe place to go, but Bret Stephens exhibits here an excellent example of the Ignorance of Privilege and how it can be used to make excuses for bad male behavior and scare the bejesus out of white people. – gtl)

<li>From Peter Sinclair at Climate Denial Crock of the Week: <a href="">Climate Scientist (Stefan Rahmstorf) to NYTimes. Cancel my Sub</a></li>

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

Selected tweets about Bret Stephens

Why I ate a Pangolin

The Lese people practice swidden horticulture in the Ituri Forest, Congo (formerly Zaire). Living in the same area are the Efe people, sometimes known as Pygmies (but that may be an inappropriate term). The Efe and Lese share a culture, in a sense, but are distinct entities within that culture, as distinct as any people living integrated by side by side ever are. The Efe are hunter-gatherers, but the gathering of wild food part of that is largely supplanted by a traditional system of tacit exchange between Efe women and Lese farmers, whereby the Efe provide labor and the farmers provide food. The Efe men also work on the farms sometimes, but their contribution to the family’s diet is more typically from foraged goods, including plants but mostly animals, and during a particular season of the year, the products of honey bee nests.

For several years, in the 1980s and early 90s, I lived in Zaire (now Congo) for several months out of each year (generally between May and January, roughly), and for much of that time I was in the Ituri with the Lese and Efe. During that time, I spent much of the time in the forest with the Efe (very few of the researches on that long term multidisciplinary project did that — most spent their time with the Lese for various reasons).

To go from our study site to the grocery store (which was not really a grocery store because they did not exist in that part of Zaire, but a city with markets) was about a week’s trip or more. Only a few days of that was driving, the rest fixing the broken truck, doing the shopping, etc. So, one did this infrequently. There was no local market during my time there, though one opened up 10 clicks away for a while, at which one might or might not be able to buy a chicken or a yam, if you showed up early.

I (and this pertains to most of my colleagues as well, only a few of us would be at the site at a time) would buy sacks of rice and beans and other long term food items in the city, and carefully curate them at the base camp, a small village constructed of wattle and daub leaf-roofed huts and outhouses. When I went to the forest just to live with or observe the Efe, I would bring the exact amount of food I would need to survive if all I did was feed myself. This way my presence would not affect the Efe’s food budget. But, this is a sharing culture and it would have been very bad for me to just eat that food. I feely shared my food with my fellow camp members, and they shared their food, and my food was almost exactly the same as their local food (rice was grown there) except I would have beans and they are not local. Otherwise, the same.

This meant that I ate what they ate.

Other times, I would hire Efe and maybe one Lese to go with me to the forest to carry out research. I’d be careful to hire them for limited amounts of time to not disrupt their lives too much, but there was very little difference between them working for me and, say, getting honey during honey season. I would only ask them to work with me for a few hours a day and they would otherwise forage. On these trips, I brought more food, for them, because our geographic location and the work we were doing interfered with their normal food getting activities, so I made up for that. But still, during these times we ate plenty of forest foods.

So, what do the Efe (and their Lese compatriot) eat?

Locally, the plant diet is insufficient nutritionally, and often, children are undernourished. There is a hunger season during which the plants from the forest and gardens are rare or absent at the same time, and this is often the death season. No one dies form starving, really (though that apparently can happen) but they have another dangerous disease, and the lack of food may put an ill individual over the top. During one bad hungers season, a small family attempted mass suicide, and mostly succeeded.

Locally, there is no beef, or as is the case a couple of hundred clicks away in most directions, commercially harvested fish. They have goats but the are ceremonial and seem to be never eaten. The Lese have chickens, a few, and they are eaten now and then. The wild animal foods they eat are incredibly important. Without that, they would be in very bad shape.

The most common animals they eat, as in day to day and mundane, are a form of antelope called the Blue Duiker, and monkeys, usually Mangabeys. During a certain season they eat a fair umber of another animal, like but not exactly a duiker, called a water Cheverotain. But since food supply is so unpredictable, they are always on the lookout, and they eat everything. A song bird or bat that flies too close may be batted down with a machete, a Honey Badger that stumbles up on a group of resting Efe may be chased own, an Elephant Shrew that happens on a camp will be dispatched by an archer and cooked up. The only time I ever saw the Efe not go after an animal that happened to show up is when a small herd of elephants came along, and the Efe made a lot of noise to chase them off, while at the same time making plans to hide in the nearby hide-from-the-elephant trees (yes, they have them.) And snakes. Something odd going on there with snakes (see below).

One of the focal points of my research was to look at how animals reacted to the Efe’s presence, and it is striking. Since the Efe will kill and eat almost anything they encounter, most of the animals are very careful to avoid the Efe, and even the Efe’s habitually used trails.

There is a certain amount of elephant hunting. Pygmies, generally, are the African elephant hunters, and apparently, have been so for a very long time. The importance of elephant is very under-appreciated by most experts. The data show that most of the food the Efe eat is plant food, and animal food makes up a percentage of their diet typical for tropical or subtropical African hunter gatherers. But those data never include elephant. I’ve estimated that the total amount of elephant meat they eat over medium periods of time, left to their own, is about the same as all the other meat combined. This happens because when someone does kill an elephant (a rare event compared to the daily killing of a duiker or other more common mammal), everyone from everywhere shows up and gorges on that meat for a few weeks.

So, even though most researchers would classify elephant as uncommon in their diet and therefor not a major contributor to the diet, they’ve simply got that wrong. It is a big deal.

Beyond that, the range of animals is huge, because the number of species native to the area is huge. Oddly, the Efe I was with (and these were more than one distinct group) didn’t seem to eat snakes, tough I know that others do. These Efe also often have a particular species of snake as their totem animal, and you don’t eat your totem animal. So, maybe that is the reason.

Because Efe live the life they live, one without the privilege of access to unlimited supplies of cattle flesh, swine meat, domestic birds, and commercially caught or raised fish, they have a wide dietary niche. Because they live in a remote part of the African rain forest, this list includes a lot of animals many may have never even heard of, or that most regard as exotic, though they are very common there. They live a life where the plant foods often fail them, and collectively do not provide a sufficiently nutritious diet, so they do not have the privilege of eschewing meat, and in fact, perhaps with the knowledge that meat is the real hunger-killer in their environment, they prefer to spend as much time as they can chewing meat.

And I spent a lot of time sharing their culture and ecology with them, and in so doing, had the privilege of getting much closer to truly experiencing another culture than most ever get. Close enough, in fact, to know that I wasn’t even close, and knowing that is a privilege the dilettante missionary or subscriber to National Geo can not have.

My letter to the New York Times

The New York Times
Elizabeth Spayed, Public Editor

Dear Elizabeth,

I am writing to express my concern for the addition of Bret Stephens to the NYT team as a columnist.

I don’t expect a columnist who seemingly writes about everything to be wrong about nothing. But the Gray Lady should, at the very least, expect a columnist to know something about something.

Stephens doesn’t simply express opinions that are not popular in certain, many, circles. He attempts to support his opinions with what we now seem to be calling alt-facts.

For example, his opinion about the importance of climate change is that we don’t know what climate change will really do, if it will really do anything, or when. He supports this idea by asserting that there is too much uncertainty in the science for us to know.

Elizabeth, you must know that science is nothing if it is not the study of variation in nature and its causes and properties. While the public face of many scientific findings is often the trend line showing the relationship between two variables, much of the science itself is about the uncertainty around that trend line; measuring, understanding the limits and extent of, and grappling with uncertainty is what scientists do.

As a scientist (not a climate scientist, though I’ve published in that area) and a science communicator, I can tell you that when Mr. Stephens makes the claim that there is too much uncertainty about anthropogenic climate change to say much about it, he is simply wrong. He does not know the science, he has made up this thing that looks like a fact, and he has used it to buttress absurd arguments, and you, the New York Times, is now set to be a vehicle for passing this misinformation on to the general public.

Many of my friends and colleagues have unsubscribed to the New York Times over this. I have not. Rather, I was just about to subscribe, as part of my overall effort to support good journalism in the Trump Era. In the past few weeks I’ve subscribed to my local paper, my regional paper, and one national paper (Washington Post) and I was just about to add the New York Times to that list. But now I can’t ethically do so, even though much of your other science coverage is pretty good, and even tough I grew up on the New York Times Science Section (remember that?).

But this probable drop in subscription is nothing to you, because trends in the business side of the NYT operation are much larger and more complex than many, if not most, of the world’s climate scientists dropping off your list over the addition of Bret Stephens to your staff. The bigger problem is this: The New York Times editorial staff has lost our respect.

I look forward to your prompt and decisive attention to this manner, and the quick repair of the mistake the NYT has made.


Greg Laden, PhD.

Dear New York Times: Climate Change Is Real

I’ve been meaning to write a letter to the New York Times I just wrote this letter to the New York Times about their very wrong decision to add a climate science denier to their editorial staff. When they were recently challenged about this idea, the response was, paraphrasing, “millions of people believe this man that climate change is not for real.”

Coming from the New York Times I find that deeply disturbing and overwhelmingly offensive.

Anyway, I haven’t written my letter yet, but my friend and colleague Stefan Rahmstorf, climate scientist, did, and he says it is OK to post it. So, here is Stefan’s letter:

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 Change 2013). 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, 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

Also posted on Stefan’s Facebook page