A Skeptic Comes Around

Mike Schermer in Scientific American this month. If politicians actually paid attention to what most mattered, I think global warming control would be our number one governmental initiative. He doesn’t list most of the implications here, but I encourage you all to do research (for example, at RealClimate.org, or by reviewing relevant articles published in the journals Nature or Science.)

In 2018 Cambridge University Press published Bjorn Lomborg’s book The Skeptical Environmentalist, which I thought was a perfect debate topic for the Skeptics Society public lecture series at the California Institute of Technology. The problem was that all the top environmental organizations refused to participate. “There is no debate,” one spokesperson told me. “We don’t want to dignify that book,” another said. One leading environmentalist warned me that my reputation would be irreparably harmed if I went through with it. So of course I did.

My experience is symptomatic of deep problems that have long plagued the environmental movement. Activists who vandalize Hummer dealerships and destroy logging equipment are criminal ecoterrorists. Environmental groups who cry doom and gloom to keep donations flowing only hurt their credibility. As an undergraduate in the 1970s, I learned (and believed) that by the 1990s overpopulation would lead to worldwide starvation and the exhaustion of key minerals, metals and oil, predictions that failed utterly. Politics polluted the science and made me an environmental skeptic.

Nevertheless, data trump politics, and a convergence of evidence from numerous sources has led me to make a cognitive switch on the subject of anthropogenic global warming. My attention was piqued on February 8 when 86 leading evangelical Christians—the last cohort I expected to get on the environmental bandwagon—issued the Evangelical Climate Initiative calling for “national legislation requiring sufficient economy-wide reductions” in carbon emissions.

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