The neoconservative writer published his first piece for the Gray Lady last week, a seventeen-paragraph column that disputes the certainty of climate science. Three days later, on Monday, the editors issued a correction for the only sentence that actually cited climate science research.
Stephens had written (emphasis mine):
Anyone who has read the 2014 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 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.
But ThinkProgress’ Joe Romm pointed out that the IPCC report says the 0.85 degrees Celsius of warming was global, not just the Northern Hemisphere. The Times corrected that mistake, but let lie Stephens’s false claim that such warming is “modest.” As Romm notes, “It is roughly the same as the entire variation the Earth experienced during the several thousand years of stable climate that enabled the development of modern civilization, global agriculture, and a world that could sustain a vast population.”
James Bennet, the Times’ editorial page editor, told HuffPost that the opinion side applies the “same standards for fairness and accuracy” as the reporting side. Today’s correction doesn’t dispel that pledge, but it suggests that if indeed the editors plan to rigorously fact-check Stephens, they’re going to have their hands full—and that today’s correction is probably the first of many to come for the paper’s newest columnist.