Published on May 11th, 2011 | by Zachary Shahan1
Climate Skeptic (& Republican) Who Learned the Facts..
I know how frustrating and disheartening it can be discussing climate science and politics with a so-called climate skeptics. I get comments from them on Planetsave daily (although, my guess is a lot of them aren’t actually human). Furthermore, though, I’ve got a good friend who is one. He’s caught up on conspiracy theory communities that spout climate change misinformation as some of their conspiracy theories (and don’t get me wrong, I believe a number of conspiracy theories, but the idea that thousands of climate scientists around the world are tricking the public for money or to create a “one world government” is not one of them).
Anyway, when I ran across this article on a climate skeptic who came around after actually researching the topic, it gave me a bit of hope for humanity and even some of the most die-hard climate skeptics.
The article, Confessions of a Climate Change Convert, is by a Republican, D.R. Tucker. Here’s how it starts:
I was defeated by facts.
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, anti-capitalist kooks. It wasn’t until after I read Stanford University professor Morris Fiorina’s book Disconnect (2009) that I started to reconsider things.
When friends suggested Tucker read the 2007 IPCC Assessment Report, he went further, and this is what he found and how it’s transformed his life:
I began reading the report with a skeptical eye, but by the time I concluded I could not find anything to justify my skepticism … 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.
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.
Yeah, we need more of that.
And while I rip on Republican political leaders on here pretty often, I try to make sure to cal them “political leaders” or “politicians” not Republicans, because I do not believe that Republicans want the environmental destruction or lack of environmental protection that leading Republican politicians work for. A conservative protection of the natural resources we need to live and to live comfortably was once a hallmark of the Republican party. It has been lost as Big Oil and Big Coal have gained too much power over the Republican party, but it is not an intrinsic party of the party’s ideology at all.
Now, as Brian Merchant of TreeHugger aptly noted with regard to Tucker’s transformation, a key trigger for him was realizing how much Republicans of old had worked to protect the environment, realizing that environmental protection is a conservative ethic. Here’s more from Brian:
The biggest selling point was evidently the fact that environmentalism once used to be the province of conservatives — it was, of course, once a deeply red belief that wildlife and ecosystems should be preserved for future generations. This is worth noting, as the current ideological polarization has created an apparent divide between left and right over the environment — Republican politicians, are so staunchly anti-regulation, anti-environmental protection and pro-corporate that we couldn’t imagine anyone who cares about that environment supporting them. But millions do. And if the facts were better separated from the political dogma (if anyone has any new ideas on that front, I’m all ears), perhaps we’d have more success stories like this.
Nice to see such news. Hopefully we’ll see more of it soon as it is further revealed that the Fossil Fuel Industry and the politicians it buys are the ones stimulating most climate denial or “skepticism” and keeping us from creating a world that will not be “hell and high water” for our children (or even ourselves).
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Image via Matt From London