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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