Confessions of a ‘Lukewarmist’

An ecologist and early member of Greenpeace will speak at a conference of climate-change skeptics.

National Journal
Christopher Snow Hopkins
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Christopher Snow Hopkins
May 8, 2014, 8 a.m.

In Feb­ru­ary, Patrick Moore, one of the ori­gin­al mem­bers of Green­peace, told mem­bers of Con­gress that cli­mate change was a the­ory, not a fact.

“There is no sci­entif­ic proof that hu­man emis­sions of car­bon di­ox­ide (CO2) are the dom­in­ant cause of the minor warm­ing of the Earth’s at­mo­sphere over the past 100 years,” he test­i­fied be­fore the Sen­ate En­vir­on­ment and Pub­lic Works Sub­com­mit­tee on Over­sight. “If there were such a proof it would be writ­ten down for all to see. No ac­tu­al proof, as it is un­der­stood in sci­ence, ex­ists.”

Moore knows well that his views run con­trary to the sci­entif­ic con­sensus on cli­mate change and he’s un­apo­lo­get­ic. “I real­ize that my com­ments are con­trary to much of the spec­u­la­tion about our cli­mate that is ban­died about today,” he said. “However, I am con­fid­ent that his­tory will bear me out.”

Earli­er this week, it was an­nounced that the cur­mudgeonly 66-year-old, who has re­pu­di­ated the or­gan­iz­a­tion he once be­longed to (and it has re­pu­di­ated him), will de­liv­er a key­note ad­dress at the 9th In­ter­na­tion­al Con­fer­ence on Cli­mate Change, a gath­er­ing of cli­mate-change skep­tics that will take place in Ju­ly. The thrust of his present­a­tion will be what Moore sees as the spec­u­lat­ive nature of cli­mate-change re­search.

“Com­puter mod­els are not a crys­tal ball,” Moore said on the phone Thursday. “In fact, the crys­tal ball is a myth­ic­al op­tion. There is no such ma­chine that can pre­dict the fu­ture”¦. As Yogi Berra opined many years ago, ‘Pre­dic­tions are dif­fi­cult, es­pe­cially about the fu­ture.’ If you can pre­dict cli­mate change, you can pre­dict the stock ex­change and the win­ner of every horse race. The fu­ture is full of vari­ables.”

Moore, who holds a Ph.D. in eco­logy from the Uni­versity of Brit­ish Columbia, con­cedes that the sci­entif­ic com­munity has co­alesced around the the­ory of cli­mate change but poin­ted to a re­cent sur­vey of Iowa corn farm­ers in which 92 per­cent of re­spond­ents said that they did not be­lieve hu­mans were the main cause of glob­al warm­ing. “I’m in good com­pany,” he said.

The self-de­scribed “luke­warm­ist” — which he defines as “someone in between a den­ier and a true be­liev­er” — will be joined at the con­fer­ence by a mot­ley co­ali­tion of cli­mate skep­tics, in­clud­ing a smat­ter­ing of cli­ma­to­lo­gists, a former mem­ber of the Aus­trali­an Par­lia­ment, and a re­tired NASA rock­et sci­ent­ist.

For its part, Green­peace main­tains that Moore did not help found the or­gan­iz­a­tion, as he claims, but joined after it was es­tab­lished. These days, the or­gan­iz­a­tion is crit­ic­al of Moore, say­ing on its web­site that he “fre­quently cites a long-ago af­fil­i­ation with Green­peace to gain le­git­im­acy.”

They dis­agree on policy, too. On the mat­ter of cli­mate change, for ex­ample, the or­gan­iz­a­tion ar­gues force­fully that it is an im­port­ant and press­ing en­vir­on­ment­al prob­lem, point­ing to a re­cent White House re­port as fur­ther evid­ence of the ur­gent need to re­duce glob­al car­bon emis­sions.

“This week’s Na­tion­al Cli­mate As­sess­ment re­minds us that cli­mate change isn’t something we can wait to deal with,” said Gabe Wis­niewski, Green­peace’s cli­mate cam­paign dir­ect­or. “Amer­ic­an com­munit­ies are already fa­cing the im­pacts every day. And the threat of stronger storms, droughts, and rising sea levels will only grow un­less we re­duce car­bon pol­lu­tion.”

Born in Brit­ish Columbia, Moore served for nine years as pres­id­ent of Green­peace Canada and sev­en years as a dir­ect­or of Green­peace In­ter­na­tion­al. In 1971, he sailed on a small boat across the Pa­cific to protest U.S. hy­dro­gen-bomb test­ing in Alaska, ac­cord­ing to his con­gres­sion­al testi­mony.

He left Green­peace in the 1980s and spent four years as dir­ect­or and vice pres­id­ent for the en­vir­on­ment and gov­ern­ment­al af­fairs at Wa­ter­fur­nace In­ter­na­tion­al, a man­u­fac­turer of geo­therm­al heat pumps. From 2000 to 2012, he served as chair­man and chief sci­ent­ist of Green­spir­it Strategies, a con­sultancy. He has pub­lic­ally worked on be­half of the nuc­le­ar in­dustry.

Now semire­tired, Moore has been to Europe twice in the last few months to fight against a cam­paign to ban “golden rice,” a ge­net­ic­ally mod­i­fied ver­sion of rice en­riched with beta-carotene. “Vit­am­in A de­fi­ciency kills mil­lions of chil­dren,” he said. “Golden rice can fix that.”

It’s one more area that he and Green­peace don’t see eye to eye. As Aless­andro Sac­coc­cio, com­mu­nic­a­tions man­ager for eco­lo­gic­al farm­ing at Green­peace In­ter­na­tion­al, put it, “Ge­net­ic­ally en­gin­eered Golden Rice is an ex­pens­ive and risky ex­per­i­ment that for the past 20 years has failed to de­liv­er a real solu­tion for Vit­am­in A de­fi­ciency in the Phil­ip­pines.”

COR­REC­TION: An earli­er ver­sion of this story mis­sated where a sur­vey of farm­ers took place. It was Iowa.

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