Bret Stephens

Bret Stephens

Credentials

  • Undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago, and a Master’s from the London School of Economics. [1]

Background

Bret Stephens is a columnist at The New York Times, where he is also a deputy editorial page editor. [2]

Stephens is the former writer of the “Global View” column on foreign affairs at The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), where he was also deputy editorial page editor and an editorial board member. He first joined the WSJ in 1998 as an op-ed editor, leaving the paper in 2002 to work as editor-in-chief ot The Jerusalem Post, later returning to the Journal in late 2004. [1]

Stephens' April 2017 hiring by The New York Times generated controversy, given his views on climate change which he has described as “mass hysteria” for which “much of the science has since been discredited.” [2]

Stephens has been a regular panelist on the Fox News Channel's “Journal Editorial Report.” In 2004, he was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, where he is also a media fellow. In 2013, he won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary for his work at the Wall Street Journal[1]

Stance on Climate Change

April 2017

In a statement to the Huffington Post, Bret Stephens described himself as a “climate agnostic”: [3]

Is the earth warming?” he asked. “That’s what the weight of scientific evidence indicates. Is it at least partially, and probably largely, a result of man-made carbon emissions? Again, that seems to be the case. Am I ‘anti-science’? Hell, no.”

I say ‘seems’ because the history of science is replete with consensus positions that have evolved ― or crumbled ― under the weight of additional scientific evidence,” he continued. “Our radically changing understanding of cancer and of the ways of curing it is a salient example of what I mean.” [3]

November 2015

Writing at the Wall Street Journal, Bret Stephens characterized climate change as “hysteria” and listed it among other “imaginary enemies.” Other “imaginary enemies” included “hunger in America,” “the campus-rape epidemic,” and “institutionalized racism”:  [4]

“The hysteria generated by an imperceptible temperature rise of 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880—as if the trend is bound to continue forever, or is not a product of natural variation, or cannot be mitigated except by drastic policy interventions. The hyping of flimsy studies—melting Himalayan glaciers; vanishing polar ice—to press the political point. The job security and air of self-importance this provides the tens of thousands of people—EPA bureaucrats, wind-turbine manufacturers, litigious climate scientists, NGO gnomes—whose livelihoods depend on a climate crisis. The belief that even if the crisis isn’t quite what it’s cracked up to be, it does us all good to be more mindful about the environment.”  [4]

“Here’s a climate prediction for the year 2115: Liberals will still be organizing campaigns against yet another mooted social or environmental crisis. Temperatures will be about the same.”  [4]

November 29, 2011

Writing at The Wall Street Journal, in an article titled “The Great Global Warming Fizzle,” Stephens compared mainstream climate science to religion: [5]

“Consider the case of global warming, another system of doomsaying prophecy and faith in things unseen.

As with religion, it is presided over by a caste of spectacularly unattractive people pretending to an obscure form of knowledge that promises to make the seas retreat and the winds abate. As with religion, it comes with an elaborate list of virtues, vices and indulgences. As with religion, its claims are often non-falsifiable, hence the convenience of the term “climate change” when thermometers don't oblige the expected trend lines. As with religion, it is harsh toward skeptics, heretics and other “deniers.” And as with religion, it is susceptible to the earthly temptations of money, power, politics, arrogance and deceit.” [5]

April 2010

Stephens declared that global warming was “dead” in his column at the WSJ[6]

“So global warming is dead, nailed into its coffin one devastating disclosure, defection and re-evaluation at a time. Which means that pretty soon we're going to need another apocalyptic scare to take its place,” he wrote.

He concluded with a proposal for “a readers’ contest to invent the next panic. It must involve something ubiquitous, invisible to the naked eye, and preferably mass-produced. And the solution must require taxes, regulation, and other changes to civilization as we know it.” [6]

Key Quotes

December 2016

Bret Stephens announced on Twitter that he was proud to work for a newspaper willing to publish the work of climate change denier Roger Pielke, Jr., linking to Pielke's article titled “My Unhappy Life as a Climate Heretic”: [7]

Good to work for a newspaper that publishes the excellent Roger Pielke, Jr., courageous climate realist

August 2015

Bret Stephens wrote at the WSJ that, after visiting Hiroshima, that “Hiroshima and Nagasaki weren’t merely horrific, war-ending events. They were lifesaving.” [8]

“The bomb turned the empire of the sun into a nation of peace activists,” Stephens wrote. “Modern Japan is a testament to the benefits of total defeat, to stripping a culture prone to violence of its martial pretenses. Modern Hiroshima is a testament to human resilience in the face of catastrophe. It is a testament, too, to an America that understood moral certainty and even a thirst for revenge were not obstacles to magnanimity. In some ways they are the precondition for it.” [8]

January 2015

In a Twitter post, Stephens claimed that we cannot predict climate change: [9]

April 2014

Posting on Twitter, Bret Stephens links to a WSJ article that concludes that “The IPCC also turns out to have an agenda that's less about climate change than income inequality and redistribution.” [10], [11]

https://twitter.com/BretStephensNYT/status/452935000997261313

August 9, 2011

Bret Stephens wrote at the Wall Street Journal about President Obama: [12]

“I don't buy it. I just think the president isn't very bright.” [12]

He concludes: [12]

“The presidency of Barack Obama is a case study in stupid does.” [12]

December 8, 2009

Stephens compared “global warming true believers” to Stalinists, anti-Semites and communists, reported Media Matters. Stephens had written in the Wall Street Journal: [13], [14]

“[T]he really interesting question is less about the facts than it is about the psychology. Last week, I suggested that funding flows had much to do with climate alarmism. But deeper things are at work as well.

“One of those things, I suspect, is what I would call the totalitarian impulse. This is not to say that global warming true believers are closet Stalinists. But their intellectual methods are instructively similar. Consider:

[…]

• Monocausalism: For the anti-Semite, the problems of the world can invariably be ascribed to the Jews; for the Communist, to the capitalists. And as the list above suggests, global warming has become the fill-in-the-blank explanation for whatever happens to be the problem.” [14]

July 2008

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Stephens declared[15]

Global warming is a sick-souled religion.”  [15]

Key Deeds

August 31, 2017

Stephens wrote an Opinion piece at The New York Times titled “Hurricanes, Climate and the Capitalist Offset.” In the article, citing data from Roger Pielke Jr. (who Stephens describes as “yet another victim of the climate lobby’s hyperactive smear machine”), he writes that “disaster losses as a percentage of the world’s G.D.P., at just 0.3 percent, have remained constant since 1990. That’s despite the dollar cost of disasters having nearly doubled over the same time — at just about the same rate as the growth in the global economy.” [29]

“Climate activists often claim that unchecked economic growth and the things that go with are principal causes of environmental destruction. In reality, growth is the great offset. It’s a big part of the reason why, despite our warming planet, mortality rates from storms have declined from .11 per 100,000 in the 1900s to .04 per 100,000 in the 2010s,” Stephens wrote. He concludes that “The best lesson the world can take from Texas is to follow the path of its extraordinary economic growth on the way to environmental resilience.” [29]

June 2017

As reported at Mic, Bret Stephens joined MSNBC and NBC as an on-air contributor. Nicolle Wallace announced the news on her Wednesday MSNBC program, saying “We're so, so, so lucky and happy to have you.” [23]

Before Stephens, the network also recently hired conservative radio show host Hugh Hewitt as well as Wallace who was a former spokesperson for George W. Bush. [23]

May 4, 2017

Bret Stephens wrote a column, Climate of Unintended Consequences, that argued that because a policy supporting biofuels had been broadly damaging after being initially supported, this showed there was a lesson for other policies aimed at supporting action on climate change. [24]

The column suggested that environment campaigners had almost uniformly supported policies to back the production of ethanol from biofuels, but that this support had in later years turned out to be misplaced. Several writers pointed out that, in fact, many environment groups had been critical of the corn-based ethanol policies from the beginning. [25]

Stephens also criticised Germany, suggesting the country's Energiewende policy to promote renewable energy use had failed, writing: “The country is producing record levels of energy from wind and solar power, but emissions are almost exactly what they were in 2009.” [26]

German climate scientist Professor Stefan Rahmstorf accused Stephens of cherry-picking the year 2009, when emissions were especially low, in order to dusguise the steady reduction of Germany's emissions over decades. [27]

At the same time as Stephens published the column, an online petition against his hiring topped 30,000. [28]

May 1, 2017

Bret Stephens answers questions from readers about his first column, but largely ignores the issues raised by scientists. Public editor Liz Spayd also writes about the response to Stephens' first column, writing that she was worried that Stephens was “minimizing the serious risk of climate change by referring to the “modest” warming of the earth and likening polling data to sophisticated climate models” but added she took him on his word that “he has no intention of manufacturing facts.”

April 28, 2017

Bret Stephens writes his first column for the New York Times, attacking what he claimed were unacceptable levels of claimed certainty around climate science.  Stephens' column prompted a wave of responses in other media outlets. Times public editor Liz Spayd wrote there had been “thousands” of complaints about the column, including public criticisms from reporters at the newspaper.

On The Guardian, blogger Dana Nuccitelli said the column was “textbook hippie-punching”. In a long rebuttal, David Roberts at Vox said it was clear the Times had hired a “climate change bullshitter.” On ClimateFeedback, a site where scientists check media stories on climate change, Professor Stefan Rahmstorf said the column was “vague, general and full of innuendo, and not supported by any evidence or specific examples. This style of discourse is characteristic for people that do not have the evidence on their side.”

Speaking to ThinkProgress, climate scientist Professor Michael said the column “confirms my worst fear: That the NY Times management is now willingly abetting climate change denialism.”

Prof. Robert Brulle  said Stephens' column was “climate misinformation.”

April 22, 2017

The New York Times public editor Liz Spayd published an explanation of the hiring of Bret Stephens, prompting a backlash among climate scientists, some of which called the defence “offensive” and cancelled their subscriptions.  Times editorial page editor James Bennet said he had “no doubt” that Stephens “crosses our bar for intellectual honesty and fairness.”

Professor Stefan Rahmstorf, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impacts Research, wrote a letter to the newspaper's editors, saying: “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.”

On April 26 in an interview with Vox, Stephens said that he had a friend who was a climate activist who had recently had a baby. Stephens told Vox: “If he thinks in 20 years we’ll be heading toward unsustainable climates and there will be tens of millions of people being displaced, presumably including himself, at the most apocalyptic level, then presumably he wouldn’t be having children. It contradicts the belief that we are heading ineluctably for an apocalyptic environmental future.”

Joe Romm, of ThinkProgress, said Stephens' logic was “absurd”. 

April 12, 2017

Bret Stephens joined the New York Times as an Op-Ed columnist. The Times press release describes Stephens as “a beautiful writer who ranges across politics, international affairs, culture and business.” [16]

Speaking with ThinkProgress via email, Robert J. Brulle, a media expert at Drexel University whom The New York Times themselves once described as an “an expert on environmental communications” said the hiring was “a very sad comment on the New York Times’ judgment.” Brulle said Stephens's hiring “contradicts their claim” in a new ad campaign that truth is “now more important than ever” to the Times.  Brulle said “the New York Times should rescind his hiring.” [2]

In a 2014 New York Times op-ed column, climatologist Michael Mann had written “a fringe minority of our populace clings to an irrational rejection of well-established science [which also] infects the halls of Congress, the pages of leading newspapers and what we see on TV.”  [2]

Commenting to ThinkProgress on the hiring of Stephens, Mann said, “sadly, the New York Times itself seems to have fallen victim to this malady, hiring one of the most notorious climate change deniers, Bret Stephens, to promote climate denial propaganda on the once-hallowed pages of the Grey Lady.” [2]

July 2008

In a Wall Street Journal article titled “Global Warming as Mass Neurosis,” Stephens writes that “Global warming is a sick-souled religion.”  The column begins, “last week marked the 20th anniversary of the mass hysteria phenomenon known as global warming. Much of the science has since been discredited.” [17]

Speaking on Arctic sea ice, Stephens adds:  [17]

“The Arctic ice cap may be thinning, but the extent of Antarctic sea ice has been expanding for years.” [17]

As DeSmog noted, that “Yes the Arctic ice cap is thinning and the old, thick ice that can withstand significant thawing under summer temperatures is being replaced by thin, seasonal ice that melts away much quicker in the spring. And this is something that has scientists very concerned, because as the old ice continues to be replaced by seasonal thin ice, the extent of the summer polar ice cap melting is increasing year-after-year.” [15]

Moving on to ocean temperatures, Stephens wrote: [17]

Data from 3,000 scientific robots in the world's oceans show there has been slight cooling in the past five years, never mind that '80% to 90% of global warming involves heating up ocean waters,' according to a report by NPR's Richard Harris.”  [17]

DeSmog noted that while Stephens's statement was correct based on the initial finding of NASA, an update shortly thereafter read as follows:

Update as of 5/30/07: Recent analyses have revealed that results from some of the ocean float and shipboard sensor data used in this study were incorrect. As a result, the study's conclusion that the oceans cooled between 2003 and 2005 can not be substantiated at this time. The study authors are currently working to correct these data errors and recompute ocean temperature changes.” (Emphasis NASA's).  [15]

Affiliations

Social Media

Publications

Some sample publications on climate change below. View the attached spreadsheet for a larger list of Bret Stephens's publications and analysis (.xlsx).

Wall Street Journal

Books

Resources

  1. Bret Stephens,” The Wall Street Journal. Archived April 16, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/fGJy7

  2. Joe Room. “After hyping itself as antidote to fake news, New York Times hires extreme climate denier,” ThinkProgress, April 13, 2017. Archived April 16, 2017. Archive.is URL:https://archive.is/wdNi1

  3. Hiring Anti-Trump Conservative Is Part Of New York Times’ Effort To Expand Opinion,” Huffington Post, April 14, 2017. Archived April 17, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/FlZSv

  4. Bret Stephens. “Liberalism’s Imaginary Enemies,” The Wall Street Journal, November 30, 2015. Archived April 16, 2017.

  5. Bret Stephens. “The Great Global Warming Fizzle,” The Wall Street Journal, November 29, 2011. Archived February 15, 2015. Archive.is URL: http://archive.is/ZVHKv

  6. “Bret Stephens. “What's the Next 'Global Warming'?“ Wall Street Journal, April 6, 2010. Archived April 17, 2017.

  7. Good to work for a newspaper that publishes the excellent Roger Pielke, Jr., courageous climate realist. […],” Twitter post by Bret Stephens, December 2, 2016.

  8. Thank God for the Atom Bomb,” The Wall Street Journal, August 3, 2015. Archived April 17, 2017.

  9. Snowmageddon? Whatever. We can't predict the next 24 hours of weather. […]” Twitter post by Bret Stephens, January 27, 2015.

  10. Second Climate Thoughts,” Wall Street Journal, April 7, 2014. Archived April 17, 2017.

  11. Is the WSJ edit page coming around to the IPCC's way of thinking on climate change? …“ Twitter post by Bret Stephens, April 6, 2014.

  12. Bret Stephens. “Is Obama Smart?The Wall Street Journal, August 9, 2011. Archived April 16, 2017.

  13. WSJ columnist Stephens compares “global warming true believers” to Stalinists, anti-Semites, and communists,” Media Matters, December 8, 2009. Archived April 16, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/b91XG

  14. Bret Stephens. “The Totalities of Copenhagen,” The Wall Street Journal, December 8, 2009. Archived December 13, 2009. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/gLSSr

  15. Kevin Grandia. “Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens' Sick Souled Neurosis,” DeSmog, July 3 2008. 

  16. Bret Stephens Joins NYT Opinion,” The New York Times Company, April 12, 2017. Archived April 16, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/e03ov

  17. Bret Stephens. “Global Warming as Mass Neurosis,”Wall Street Journal, July 1, 2008. Archived April 16, 2017.

  18. Bret Stephens Joins NYT Opinion,” The New York Times Company, April 12, 2017. Archived April 16, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/e03ov

  19. Bret Stephens,” Fox News. Archived April 17, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/6VtpU

  20. The Jerusalem Post Editors,The Jerusalem Post. Archived April 17, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/36dsb

  21. AUTHOR ARCHIVE: Bret Stephens,” Commentary. Archived April 17, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/X8Ysn 

  22. COURSES,” PragerU. Archived .mp4s on file at DeSmog.

  23. Kelly Sutton. “Conservative columnist Bret Stephens joins MSNBC,” Mic, June 28, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/c4Qm3

  24. Bret Stephens. “Climate of Unintended Consequences,” The New York Times, May 4, 2017. Archived October 20, 2017. Archive.is URL: http://archive.is/PeQbW

  25. Bret Stephens Continues Shoveling BS into NY Times Opinion Section,” DeSmog, May 4, 2017.

  26. Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions and climate targets,” Clean Energy Wire, February 1, 2017. Archived October 20, 2017. Archive.is URL: http://archive.is/ezrwW

  27. Just asking @nytimes: why would @BretStephensNYT compare latest German greenhouse gas emissions with 2009, of all years? Delicious cherries!” Twitter post by user @rahmstorf, May 4, 2017. Archived .png on file at DeSmog.

  28. Genevieve Guenther. “Tell The NY Times: do not promote climate denial at your paper,” change.org. Archived October 20, 2017. Archive.is URL: http://archive.is/lzlxr

  29. Bret Stephens. “Hurricanes, Climate and the Capitalist Offset,” The New York Times, August 31, 2017. Archived October 20, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/ow5iN

Other Resources