25 Comments
Nov 3, 2022·edited Nov 3, 2022

So Stephens thinks the market will solve everything right? Typical libertarian attitude. The dirty little secret is that governments ARE needed for projects such as these. The fossil fuel (or any industry for that matter) will never approach anything without first seeing if there is a profit in it. No profit, no interest, no activity. Simple as that. How can you monetize climate change should be, why would you want to? If no action is taken, we're all gonna die, profits be damned.

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As someone with challenged eyesight and a limited tolerance for right wing cant, I quit trying to read Bret Stephens years ago, but I am grateful for this explication. He still wants it both ways—to accept documented scientific research and to hang on to his market ideology. And the New York Times gives him the platform to indulge himself at a great danger to his readers. Maybe your readers would like a book I just read: Off the Edge: Flat Earthers, Conspiracy Culture, and Why People Will Believe Anything by Kelly Weill. Stephens has stepped back from the edge, but his clinging to his competing ideology makes him a threat to those of us living on the coasts, or really anywhere on the planet.

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I think a lot of NYT readers, myself included, ignore Bret Stevens and the other self righteous selfish “conservative”, Douthat, even when they realize how wrong headed they are. They stay self righteous and selfish, as well as annoyingly certain that they are the rightest.

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Kelly Weill is a host on the podcast Fever Dreams. She's great.

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She knows how to call crazy "crazy" with a light touch.

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One point that should be made about the fracking and natural gas boom. It turned out to be a market bubble and an economic bust. While the gas generated income, most of the fracking projects depleted the gas before they repaid the cost of their capital. Lots of banks lost money when projects went bust after a few years. The big point is that we will never see fracking produce cheap gas like it did in the 2010s. Investors won’t fall for the hype again.

Markets can fail too.

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“Stephens says humanity has an ‘overwhelming and, for now, inescapable dependence on fossil fuels.’" This statement is a perfect illustration of the limits of “the market’s” ability to solve the problem. There is no incentive for “the market” to give up billions of paying customers (short term reward) in favor of a system that ensures long term survival of those customers. Markets run on individual actors exercising choices, but too few people have the access or resources to exercise choice in any meaningful way. Regulation is needed to shift the cost/benefit analysis in favor of carbon neutrality. Otherwise, eventual - and inevitable - population attrition will take care of the problem.

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Indeed Stodd, agreed!

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The market WILL solve everything. Global warming with its attendant sea level rise, famine, mass migration, and conflict will ultimately reduce population and its greenhouse gas emissions. Personally, I’d opt for a less painful approach.

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Me too. Less pain is far more attractive than the reverse.

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Great report, you two! Stephens is another money worshipper with an MBA who believes capitalism will solve everything.

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Ah, Bret-bug is at it again. I saw the headline and declined to read, knowing that his take was as you describe.

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I read today's installment. When I saw it was a takedown of Bret Stephens, I devoured it. And then I immediately (and after many months of reading your newsletter for free) signed-up for an annual subscription. I urge you to include a regular feature that takes down Stephens's columns. The Times should have fired him long ago. (They must be afraid of the vicious memoir he undoubtedly would publish.) He is useless, except maybe as an outlet for Times' readers to let-off steam (pardon the pun: climate change, etc., get it?) in the comments section.

Speaking of which I also urge readers of this installment of your newsletter to read the comments that accompanied Stephens's Greenland epiphany when it appeared in the Times. One commenter speculated that Stephens has "8 readers" of his column. I fear he has many more than that. Mind you, I am NOT a regular reader. I read the Greenland piece because I couldn't help myself. I mean, "what? Bret Stephens is acknowledging that climate change actually is happening? Bret Stephens? I gotta read this."

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founding

In keeping with the cancer analogy, like cancer, the oil industry and the New York Times journalist, dont care whether the host dies. The cancer cell has the ideology of growth for growth's sake. The cancer cells take over and consume all the nutrients and energy of the body. That journalist is a part of the death cult and maybe he should go live in Florida where he would see first hand the consequences of that ideology.

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Does Stephens have any financial ties to the fossil fuel industry? I know, unethical, but just wondering why he goes so far on this?

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If only this capitalist realized it's exactly the system he worships that is the root cause of all of this misery.

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founding

Just lost a long piece I wrote about my history of learning (and some teaching) about climate and how endangered our planet is... I learned from a pioneer in the field of solar energy--Stella Andrassy, who worked with and learned from Maria Telkes, a professor at MIT and NYU. The two women presented findings on how useful solar energy can be for cooking and drying food, heating and cooling homes and pools, heating and cooling buildings, purifying contaminated water and making it potable. India was ready to invest in this, but then withdrew that project to put their financial resources into nuclear energy! Stella gave me a solar oven (in the 70's) and I experimented and enjoyed cooking and baking in it--even put together a book with my results. Decades later I was able to teach students at Rutgers in all levels of writing classes about all types of issues. I was able to teach those wrting a senior thesis the material from Jim Hansen, then not so famous, but now known as the pre-eminent Climate Scientist. [sorry it's late and this is not organized]. Perhaps the best source of climate information I've received has come from our local public library's annual (more than 10 years now) Environmental Film Festival. This free festival has shared maybe every worthy documentary made in the last 15 years. So, we've learned how ice all over our planet has been melting continually. Seems that Brett Stephens has learned maybe none of this. How tragic that he's given any credence. I sense that we cannot undo or reverse most of the damage done, but we would be wise to prepare to live entirely different lifestyles. We must stop poisoning the air, water, and soil. Denialism acts to deny all that is truly precious about life on our planet. I look forward to reading what Emily Atkin contributes.

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Interesting I info. My friend spent 6 weeks studying climate effects on Iceland this summer.

Capitalism is the scourge to many millennial and Gen Z. I think another reason the GOP is trying for 1 party rule so voting counts will be quelled amongst those generations.

Reading this, they are on to what climate deniers are up to for the sake of monetary gains for the 1%.

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I’ve never heard of Bret Stephens until this post, but in fairness I’ve never heard of John Englander, either. Because he’s a climate denier, nothing I read about Stephens or his “come to Jesus” moment and response surprised me. Englander’s response did surprise me. “I would like him to acknowledge the probabilities and the devastation a little more,” is hardly a statement that suggests Stephens is wrong. As I read his comments as quoted in your post, I get the impression that Englander believes Stephens’ opinion matters in a meaningful way. Does it? What am I missing?

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I'm sure Stephens, in his *extensive* studies, has come across the concept of negative externalities — costs of production/manufacture that accrue to people other than the producers. Like if someone dumps their mill waste on your property. For market incentives to function properly, the costs need to be reassigned to whoever created the problem. A lot of libertarians claim that civil lawsuits solve the problem, but who would have standing to sue fossil fuel producers for climate change, and how would you assign damages?

Stephens must be aware of this, and yet he still clings disingenuously to the invisible hand. “Market forces” will do nothing to help the climate crisis without government regulation. The NYT Op-Ed page is a disaster.

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So what is the real solution to fossil fuels? The technologies we have available will not get the existing global population to zero carbon emissions. In fact, these technologies will make things worse in the near term. Then we will have to deal with a whole new set of pollution issues. So these technologies should be pursued selectively. It seems we have exceeded the planet's ability to support the population. Why are we not discussing negative population growth policies and articulating the alternative life style zero emissions really demand? Educate people to the realities before them.

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