The death of civil discourse: Twitterverse eviscerates Bret Stephens over climate column
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The New York Times's Bret Stephens might be the most hated man in America right now. 

His crime? Actually being pragmatic on the debate around climate change, while avoiding being blinded by partisanship by playing strictly to one side. 

The backlash against Stephens, a former Wall Street Journal conservative columnist and proud #NeverTrump member who recently signed on with the Times, follows his (completely reasonable) debut column that urges each side of the climate change debate to be open to listening to the other side, in order to have a better understanding around possible solutions. 

But compromise is a big no-no in today's completely intolerable political landscape, which has declared that there cannot be any debate on this issue. Just ask John Kasich how things worked out for him when he based his presidential run on healing a polarized country and compelling its political system to work for the good of the country again. 

On climate change, the mantra many in media now espouse is, “It's over. It's decided. Put it in the books. Sit down and shut up if you even think of discussing it, unless it includes the word ‘crisis,’ ‘doomed’ or ‘underwater.’" 


In his Friday column, Stephens concedes that climate change is real. The question he (rightly) asks is, what are the facts? Is some of the data being cited by those warning about consequences faulty? Is the planet in clear and present danger? Stephens thinks both sides have good points and accurate data to share.


On one side, he writes the following: 

“Anyone who has read the 2014 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change knows that, while the modest (0.85 degrees Celsius, or about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit) 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.”

The 2013 Pulitzer winner continues: “That’s especially true of the sophisticated but fallible models and simulations by which scientists attempt to peer into the climate future. To say this isn’t to deny science. It’s to acknowledge it honestly.”

OK, so that's Stephens not denying that climate change exists and scolding those who say otherwise. 

But here comes the part that was too much for some to handle, where Stephens dared to challenge the danger of speaking in absolutes on the topic. In doing so, he invaded one too many safe spaces from those who only read the Times to have their own opinions validated. 

"Claiming total certainty about the science traduces the spirit of science and creates openings for doubt whenever a climate claim proves wrong," Stephens declared. "Demanding abrupt and expensive changes in public policy raises fair questions about ideological intentions."

"Censoriously asserting one’s moral superiority and treating skeptics as imbeciles and deplorables wins few converts," he continues.                     

"Ordinary citizens also have a right to be skeptical of an overweening scientism. They know — as all environmentalists should — that history is littered with the human wreckage of scientific errors married to political power."

The reaction from those left and way-left of center was about what one would expect in 2017:

Gizmodo's Libby Watson took the backlash to a new level.

As did Jesse Berney of Rolling Stone:

It's all so reminiscent of students at UC-Berkeley shutting down the free speech of the Ann Coulters and Milo Yiannopouloses of the world, isn't it? 

Screw debate. Screw civil discourse. Just turn the anger and self-righteousness up to 11 and scream the opposing argument out of existence. Better yet, cancel a subscription over one opinion column that you disagree with.  

The backlash obviously caught the attention of Stephens, who is probably feeling like Germany in 1945, surrounded by armies of multiple countries.  

This is just how it goes in 2017: Compromise is obsolete. Pragmatic thought is out. And God forbid The New York Times actually attempt to offer some degree of diversity of thought. 

Safe spaces don't just exist on college campuses anymore. It's alive and well among intolerant "adults" too. 

If validation of this perspective is needed, simply ask Bret Stephens about it.

Joe Concha (@JoeConchaTV) is a media reporter for The Hill.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.