The Times’s appointment of climate change denier Bret Stephens to its op-ed page has provoked a fair amount of criticism with more than a few sufficiently outraged to cancel their subscriptions.
Those with long enough memories will find a bit rich that included among the critics is former Times environmental reporter Andrew Revkin. It was Revkin, after all, who, when it mattered, routinely provided a platform for what was then called “climate skepticism,” whether by soliciting comments from climate change contrarians such as Roger Pielke, equating as equally “exaggerated” the views of Al Gore and George Will, or covering as a legitimate news story a Heartland Institute conference directly funded by the Koch brothers.
As Joseph Romm repeatedly warned, Revkin’s “he said, she said” reporting shored up the credibility of climate denialism, and while it is impossible to know how much damage it inflicted, it should be remembered that at the time, there was a split within Obama administration. On one side were those such as Energy Secretary Stephen Chu who bluntly forecast “a real economic disaster in the making for our children, for your children” if dramatic steps to reduce greenhouse emissions were not undertaken. On the other were those such as interior Secretary Ken Salazar, a long time promoter of the oil and gas industry invested in maintaining business as usual. That the latter side prevailed behind the scenes is apparent in the “All of the Above” energy policy which materialized resulting in intensified levels of fossil fuel extraction combined with delays in implementing necessary steps to a decarbonized economy.
In uncritically passing on climate denialist talking points, Revkin undermined the case for climate action by those within the administration advocating decisive action while strengthening the hand of those who opposed it
As such his role can be compared to that of Judith Miller and Michael Gordon, whose now retracted New York Times stories provided crucial liberal cover within the newspaper of record for massive death and destruction unleashed in the Middle East.
While it would be wrong to portray Revkin as one of the chief villains in our tragic failure to contend with global warming, those such as Chris Hayes regarding him “a wise man” on the environment should reconsider their views. His receipt of numerous awards for his reporting should be seen not as validation but as “falling upwards”, rewards offered to elites whose abject failures have paved the way for the catastrophic future we are now contending with.