“How is That Conservative?” Former Climate Denier now Backs Action

February 20, 2018

Yale Climate Connections:

Climate change policy analyst* Jerry Taylor spent more than 25 years earning his well-deserved reputation as the skunk at the picnic of American climate scientists.

Taylor – the focus of this month’s “This is Not Cool” video – cut his teeth as an energy and environment savant with the very conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), where he worked from 1988 to 1991. Then, from 1991 to 2014, he was with the free-market Cato Institute in Washington, D.C., where he eventually became a vice president. Through many of those years, Taylor was a frequent spokesperson for those scientists who regularly challenged whether climate change is real, human-caused, or, in either event, worth worrying about or doing anything to address.


A frequent commentator and analyst on those media outlets on the right politically – think Fox News, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, Regulation magazine – Taylor earned the respect of those generally regarded as “skeptics.” He now has come to call some of those Fox News hosts who had given him so much precious air time “howler monkeys,” just one example of his facile way with words that makes him so quotable and so sought-after by many in the news media.

But along with the preening admiration bestowed on Taylor from many of those most stridently rejecting climate science or any effort to manage climate risks, he also won the very begrudging respect of those mainstream climate scientists and policy advocates who, while admiring his communications savvy and stage presence, trashed what they dismissed as his pseudo-science proclamations.

Those scientists readily identified with organizations such as the IPCC, the National Academy of Science, and NASA and NOAA had a shared viewpoint: Not only did they think Taylor was simply “drinking the Kool Aid” prepared and fed to him by fossil fuel-funded interests, but they also recognized that he was effective – that is very good. Very good, they would say, at doing very bad things in terms of undercutting public understanding of what many see as an existential threat to modern society and the global economy. And very good at having contributed to the polarized impasse that continues to shroud the climate change issue, particularly on Capitol Hill.

Jerry Taylor:  Version #1 vs. Version #2

But that was Jerry Taylor, Version #1. That is the Jerry Taylor who from 2000 through 2009 was spending lots of his free time designing wargames for computer gaming enthusiasts.

Then came Jerry Taylor, Version #2. That’s the Jerry Taylor who – after doing what he describes as his own “due diligence” – has come to fully accept and endorse the peer-reviewed scientific evidence on human-caused climate change that Earth’s atmosphere has warmed over the past half-century-plus primarily as a result of human emissions of greenhouse gases, specifically including carbon dioxide.

Jerry Taylor Version #2 goes further. Having studied under-graduate political science at the University of Iowa, but without graduating, Version #2 now also accepts the need to address and manage climate change impacts … and risks and accepts also the economic rationale, indeed necessity, for doing so now, rather than putting it off until … forever … as he long had argued for.

Having left behind him the Cato Institute and other climate “contrarian” partisans, interests, and individual climate science “deniers,” Taylor may yet come to be seen, in this second iteration, as being among the most quotable and effective communicators and proponents for climate action. And as one who to at least some extent has the ear of many on Capitol Hill disinclined to be seen as accepting the science or policy gravitas of ongoing atmospheric warming.

Jerry Taylor Version #1 and Jerry Taylor Version #2. It’s kind of a BC/AD situation, and an evolution that was triggered, interestingly enough, by a face-to-face challenge from well-known and feisty climate action activist and author Joe Romm, of the Center for American Progress and Climate Progress website.

Strange bedfellows that, many would surely say.

It’s Jerry Taylor Version #2 who is the focus of this month’s  Yale Climate Connections’ video by independent videographer Peter Sinclair, of Midland, Mi.

*Taylor says he doesn’t care to be described as a “libertarian” though that may be how many see him. “I’m a very heterodox libertarian at best,” he says – which means he’s unconventional or unorthodox among those seen as straight-out libertarian. “If I must be labeled ideologically, perhaps ‘moderate’ would be most correct,” Taylor now says. It’s an adjective few in the climate community might have thought appropriate not so long ago.


11 Responses to ““How is That Conservative?” Former Climate Denier now Backs Action”

  1. dumboldguy Says:

    Excellent “This Is Not Cool” piece. It’s good that some “conservatives”are making the flip and embracing the truth about climate change, but those in congress are far less likely to come around any time soon because of fear of losing their jobs.

    The “Hiss-Boo!” that Inglis suffered at the rally and the “primarying out” attacks would be their likely fate also. The (all white) crowd that booed and hissed Inglis is all too typical of the Republican base—-ignorant of science, operating from a base of beliefs rather than facts—-let’s hope enough of them see the light as Trump continues to screw them and give their congressmen enough breathing room to move in the right direction on climate.

  2. Sir Charles Says:

    Did Jerry Taylor have a conversation with his god? Or is he a rat leaving the sinking ship? Or is it just attention seeking? Or is it a mixture of anything of that?

    It’ll soon be too late anyway.

    => Countries made only modest climate-change promises in Paris. They’re falling short anyway.

    => Climate Action Tracker

    • Take the time to read his interviews. God had nothing to do with it. It was fact, evidence and the realization that he was being lied to. He’s very open about how he was persuaded and also disillusioned with the “skeptics” movement. Specifically, one night he was challenged over to what he said on a talking head show by his “opponent” in a green room. He then did his homework and confronted the “scientist” who gave him is dodgy talking points. Said alleged scientist hemmed and hawed to the point where it was clear that the scientist was well… not one with respect to AGW and was dropping context like a baby out of 30-story window.

      When one is presented with evidence, one says it. You don’t add that flip to the list of their past faults, this time for the crime of breaking purist narratives that conservatives like Taylor, Baker, Schultz and others, cannot accept the science.

      Meanwhile the rest of us (especially those of us in red states) need and will continue to message the facts of the data, physics and hazards to people other than the existing choir to further promote an evidence based science policy and not an ideological one. And that requires us to speak to the values from the other side and we ain’t gonna be able to that with pictures of polar bears.

  3. The man is a fundamentalist terrorist. So he’s had a eureka moment. Doesn’t meat he shouldn’t face charges of ecocide when the blame apportionment trials begin!

  4. astrostevo Says:

    I think the bit at the 3 minutes 21 seconds mark of that clip where we learn there are about 40-60 Republicans who privately accept the reality of climate science but refuse to say so publicly because of politics and ideology is interesting.

    Maybe, that’s something that can be used to help here? When things in the Republican line change, we may find the Denialist position can be changed more quickly than might first seem then? Perhaps? Or maybe that’s being too optimistic?

    Dunno but this seems significant and at once both a bit hopeful (they’re not “true deniers” but because they think they have to deny) and depressing. (They’re so cowardly they won’t stand up for the truth even with the long term consequences because they fear the ideologues too much.)

    PS. What’s with the minute or two of empty black screen at the end of this clip?

    • Gingerbaker Says:

      It’ll be interesting to see their conversion when they get whupped by progressive candidates who beat them into submission about the head and shoulders with the campaign issue.

      Oh, sorry, I forgot, it’s the DNC that decides the candidates and their issues. Never mind.

  5. neilrieck Says:

    It is encouraging when any person decides to change their mind in light of evidence; in fact, it is the hallmark of democracy (I have never understood the political accusation of “flip flopper” because the opposite position means “I will stick with my position no matter what evidence is provided”). I remember a similar flip back in 2006 when Michael Shermer (Skeptic Magazine) announced he was previously wrong and changing his position on climate change. Unfortunately, the majority of people accepting the evidence of climate change seems to only be increasing with the old-age death of the intransigent. Once a more open-minded younger generation has replaced them, I fear it will be too late.

    • J4Zonian Says:

      I didn’t know that about Shermer. To me, despite his interest in ultra marathon cycling, he’s always been like fingernails on a blackboard (had to use that once more before all those who know what a blackboard is die off), despite his insistence that all his positions are objective and scientific and evidence-based. He’s always had more of a conservative bias* than scientific, it seemed to me, and now I see he’s a libertarian (aka attachment problems in infancy and/or childhood; has trouble feeling empathy but but is still able to, somewhat. At least, more than neoconservatives…)

      No surprise there.

      It seems he’s also with people like Bjorn McBorgerson. What ptomaine at MacDonalds is to a 3 star Michelin restaurant, McBorgerson is to an environmentalist. They’re luckwarmers who claim it won’t be all that bad. That it took Shermer 20 years too long to come to a position that almost certainly still hugely underestimates the damage and still goes against the vast majority of peer-reviewed science doesn’t give much confidence in him as a debunker or arbiter for any subject.

      it’s nice to have your unfounded prejudices founded.


      * conservative in the sense of sticking to whatever is generally accepted (or can be presented as being that) unless blown off the position by cannon fire or earthquake. Generally against change of any kind; big on the status quo.

  6. […] If you missed the new video interview with Jerry Taylor, go there now. […]

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