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Hey, Bret Stephens …


TO: Bret Stephens of The New York Times

FROM: Mike CaseyTigercomm

Not to start at the bottom here, but when you don’t know what you’re talking about and still pontificate anyway, you’re just talking out your … well, you can fill in that blank.

That seems to be on full display with your recent tome about climate science and solutions.

Let’s start with the good news: As a long-time critic of the climate-concerned, you donned a parka and went to Greenland. First-hand experience with its rapidly melting ice sheets converted you to the scientific consensus on this global crisis.

Better late than never, even if you fell through reality’s doorstep still tripping over your ideological shoelaces. Your arrival is progress, given 2 decades of harsh rhetoric you aimed at those studying and working to solve #globalclimatedestruction: (h/t Wikipedia):

  • Climate change is a “mass hysteria phenomenon” that belongs in the “realm of belief”
  • Those concerned are part of a “sick-souled religion”
  • No significant temperature changes in the next 100 years

You returned from your travels convinced of the science but also of your advice for those who’ve long labored on solutions — advice you’re generously sharing in a big Times multi-media piece.

The advice, however, is backed by absolutely zero professional experience in running public persuasion campaigns or building climate solutions companies. Literally zero. And it shows throughout your piece that’s frequently wrong but never in doubt. Check out these eyebrow-raisers:

Rhetoric: Mock “magical thinking” from others but replay Fox News 2011 talking points about renewables’ intermittence. “Things could turn a corner once scientists finally figure out a technical solution to the energy storage problem.”

Reality check: Perhaps you missed the September trade show (RE+) with 30K people making business deals about market-ready products — including storage technologies. I was there, and I didn’t see many scientists. Then again, I didn’t see you.

Rhetoric: “In the long run, we are likelier to make progress when we adopt partial solutions that work with the grain of human nature, not big ones that work against it.”

Reality check: No one in cleantech has been waiting for the killer app solution to fix the #globalclimatedestruction in one swoop. EVERYTHING we are scaling is a partial, incremental solution. All of them are imperfect.

Rhetoric: Markets, not government, can fix the problem.

Reality check: And yet you praise government-mandated efficiency standards and don’t rail against decades of government welfare handouts showered on polluting technologies. Strange how you center-right pundits fall so silent on this market-distorting waste of our tax money.

Rhetoric: “But we cannot and will not reverse [global climate destruction] through some form of deindustrialization, which would send the world into poverty and deprivation.”

Reality check: Well, that’s true. But I’m unaware of many outside survivalist compounds who argue for the straw man you’ve so courageously wrestled to the ground. Within sustainability advocates, there’s plenty of talk about the value of taking an electric bike on short trips or avoiding single-use plastics. But living in yurts and using outhouses? Not so much.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Hey! I’m a columnist! I get to have my views. Yes, you do. But your views would be better formed and expressed if you acknowledged that your powers of observations form a lesser vantage point than the experience of those who actually have made the progress you’re now coaching others to make.

It’s why ESPN uses former athletes as commentators. They didn’t watch games with a box of popcorn. They actually played the game.

So, allow me to offer some advice. You spent 20 years saying Climate Realityville sucked and was filled by idiots. Now you’ve moved in among us. Perhaps it’s best to not fold your last moving box and start telling your neighbors how their HOA should be run. A better approach would be starting with quiet listening to others in this space. Learn what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. It’d be the equivalent of offering to help move a neighbor’s couch and volunteer for the community trash pickup. You get some cred.

In the meantime, if you insist on handing out advice, stick to what you know. Far better if you report on the impact of your many years of prominent climate denial/skepticism and the damage one guy can affect. You clearly believe in your own importance, after all.

You could also use your status as a semi-recovering climate denier to help other deniers make the shift you are in the process of making. Remember, though, that we don’t have the planetary time to take each climate science denier by the hand, send them on a field trip to Greenland, and help them gently open their eyes. We need a bulk-sales approach. Who better to think through that than you?

The main guidance here? Come from direct, professional experience and expertise. It’s a better look than talking out your backside.

Originally published on LinkedIn.

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