"I was defeated by facts" How a sceptic changed his mind about climate change
- 20 Apr 2011, 16:00
- The Carbon Brief
"I was defeated by facts,"
writes the Republican Massachusetts based blogger D. R. Tucker
at the FrumForum website.
writer and radio host has explained why, as a member of the
"urban right", he has changed his mind about climate change.
"It wasn't all that long ago when I
joined others on the right in dismissing concerns about climate
change. It was my firm belief that the science was unsettled, that
any movement associated with Al Gore and Van Jones couldn't
possibly be trusted, that environmentalists were simply left-wing,
This response to the public debate on climate change will be
familiar to right wing Conservatives and libertarians in the UK,
who have seen environmental groups call for state intervention and
higher taxation in some areas to deal with global warming.
Tucker writes that he began to question his instinctive
rejection of the science of climate change after reading Professor
Morris Fiorina's book
"Fiorina noted that while
environmentalism is now considered the domain of the Democratic
Party, for many years it was the GOP [Republican Party] that was
identified with conservationist concerns. I was curious as to how
the political climate shifted with regard to environmentalism - and
whether there was something to all this talk about climate
So he took the unusual step of reading the Fourth Assessment
Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was
published in 2007.
"I began reading the report with a
skeptical eye, but by the time I concluded I could not find
anything to justify my skepticism. The report presented an airtight
case that the planet's temperature has increased dramatically …
that sea levels have undergone a dramatic and disturbing increase
since the 1960s … and that climate alteration is having an unusual
impact on avian and sea life.
"I was stunned by the report's claim
that '[t]he observed widespread warming of the atmosphere and
ocean, together with ice mass loss, support the conclusion that it
is extremely unlikely that global climate change of the past 50
years can be explained without external forcing and very likely
that it is not due to known natural causes alone'."
"I came away from the report convinced
that climate alteration poses a critical threat to our health and
way of life, and that 'policies that provide a real or implicit
price of carbon' are in fact necessary, from an economic and a
moral standpoint, to mitigate that threat. Such policies-most
notably the much-maligned concept of cap-and-trade-should not be
considered job-killers but life-savers.
"There's a part of me that understands
why libertarian pundits seem to have so much scorn for those who
support state action to combat carbon emissions. Modern
libertarianism is suffused with skepticism of government, and
supporting state regulation of carbon emissions requires, on some
level, a belief in government to get things right."
He then asks:
"Is it even possible to be a libertarian
and an environmentalist - or a conservative and an
environmentalist, for that matter? I'm a bit skeptical myself. I'd
argue that conservatives and libertarians should strongly support
regulation to reduce carbon pollution, since pollution by one
entity invariably infringes upon the rights of others (including
property rights), and no entity has a constitutional right to
"It does not put America on the road to
serfdom to suggest that the federal government has a compelling
interest in protecting the country from ecological damage. If
anything, it puts America on the road to common sense."
The US blogger is writing on website that says it is
"dedicated to the modernisation and renewal of the Republican party
and the conservative movement".
"Since reconsidering climate science,
I've had a number of debates with conservative and libertarian
friends, who oppose government regulation of carbon emissions in
part because they believe those regulations will cost too much. Of
course regulations cost; limiting ecological damage and preserving
public health requires money.
"The issue is whether those costs are
moral to impose. If no entity has a constitutional right to
pollute, and if the federal government has a compelling interest in
reducing carbon pollution, then how can those costs not be
To conclude he presents an interesting warning. Those who
ideologically and emotionally support Republicans will find it
increasingly difficult to defend a party that appears anti-science
"In the months following my acceptance
of the conclusions in the IPCC report, I've had a change in my
emotional climate. I go back and forth between disappointment and
hope-sadness over seeing Republicans who once believed in the
threat of climate change (such as Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown
and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty) suddenly turn into
skeptics; optimism about efforts by such groups as Republicans for
Environmental Protection and Citizens Climate Lobby to sound the
alarm about the need to combat climate pollution.
"I struggle with the urge to give in to
cynicism and bitterness, to write off the American right for its
refusal to recognize scientific facts. Thankfully, there's a
stronger urge - an urge to keep working until the American right
recognizes that a healthy planet is required to have the life and
liberty that allows us to pursue happiness."
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