This post is an installment in a series about the current state of American climate skepticism. I'll be expanding upon the ideas put forward in my recent Slate piece, Do Climate Skeptics Change Their Minds?, so read that first.
True climate skeptics rarely change their minds. If they do so publicly, it's often the cause of a minor media stir, at least in the green pro-climate circles and hard-right anti-climate circles that keep track of these kinds of things. And that might explain why I received so many responses from readers after my piece investigating how and why climate skeptics change their minds was published in Slate, pointing me to a number of other such 'conversions'. So I figured it might be helpful to round some of these up, to better offer a sense of what 'climate conversion' looks like. Many of the higher profile cases of skeptics 'converting' I've listed below are relatively well known, but I hadn't seen the video above, in which a a skeptical climate scientist describes how his work led him to accept that human activity is causing warming. I've also included the enhanced audio from a segment of my interview with the converted skeptic D.R. Tucker.Hat tip to David Connell for sending over the Nature Conservancy video. And an anonymous reader sent me a link to this roundup from the Week, which I had indeed seen before, but is definitely worth checking out. It features 6 global warming skeptics who changed their minds, and their quotes upon 'conversion'. I'll excerpt the first two here, but the entire list is equally as illuminating.
1. Bjorn Lomborg, Danish academic
Lomborg made waves with his 2001 book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, which argued that global warming was no big deal, and fighting it would be a waste of money. This month, he's publishing Smart Solutions to Climate Change, which argues that a global carbon tax should be imposed to raise $150 billion a year to address global warming.
Before quote: "In 20 years' time, we'll look back and wonder why we worried so much." (2002)
After quote: "We actually have only one option: we all need to start seriously focusing, right now, on the most effective ways to fix global warming." (2010)
2. Dmitri Medvedev, Russian president
Russian leaders are famously skeptical of global warming, with then-President Vladimir Putin quipping in 2003 that a warmer Russia "wouldn't be so bad" because "we could spend less on fur coats, and the grain harvest would go up." Then Russia caught fire this summer, choking Moscow with deadly smoke, devastating agricultural production, and convincing Medvedev and other leaders that perhaps global warming is a threat, after all.
Before quote: Climate change is "some kind of tricky campaign made up by some commercial structures to promote their business projects." (2009)
After quote: "Unfortunately, what is happening now in our central regions is evidence of this global climate change, because we have never in our history faced such weather conditions in the past." (2010)
Note that Bjorn Lomborg still gives climate scientists a headache with many of his characterizations of climate change, and his 'converstion' was criticized for being an effort to drum up publicity for his last book. Still, the public about face was probably a net benefit for the climate science community.
And here's the audio from my interview with D.R. Tucker, the skeptic I profiled in the Slate piece -- he went from a self-described Rush Limbaugh-esque climate denier who believed global warming was a hoax dreamed up by Al Gore to, well, listen: (I ran this audio bit in a post last week, but many complained it was too quiet, so I've increased the volume here)
Interview with D.R. Tucker by briancmerchant
More on American Climate Skepticism
Will Climate-Related Disasters Convince Americans Global Warming is Real?
75% of Americans Have Never Heard of Climate-Gate, Study Reveals
A 'Converted' Climate Skeptic Explains Why He Changed His Mind (Audio)