Global Warming Skeptic Claims Environmental Conversion

Al Gore’s new global warming movie is apparently causing some to think that a major turning point in the debate is at hand.

The ranks of the so-called global warming “skeptics” were supposedly thinned this week when prominent environmental commentator Gregg Easterbrook announced his defection in a May 24 New York Times op-ed.

“As an environmental commentator, I have a long record of opposing alarmism. But based on the data I’m now switching sides regarding global warming, from skeptic to convert,” wrote Easterbrook, a senior editor with The New Republic and a fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Easterbrook a “skeptic”? With “a long record of opposing alarmism”? Are there two Gregg Easterbrooks?

Though Easterbrook is far from a household name, readers of environmental commentary are certainly familiar with his reputation as a left-of-center eco-contrarian – an image secured by his 1995 book entitled, “A Moment on Earth: The Coming Age of Environmental Optimism.”

Publicly reviled by environmentalists and hailed by their opponents, Easterbrook’s book examined human impact on the environment and concluded that the environment was getting better, not worse.

But 1995 is so over and now in 2006, Easterbrook concluded in the Times that “[Global warming] research is now in, and it shows a strong scientific consensus that an artificially warming world is a real phenomenon posing real danger.”

So what changed Easterbrook’s mind? Ironically, it was a report from the Bush administration released earlier this month. Before we get to that, consider what developments Easterbrook says in his op-ed didn’t persuade him.

Easterbrook writes that, in 2003, the American Geophysical Union and American Meteorological Service “both declared that signs of global warming had become compelling” and “In 2004, the American Association for the Advancement of Science said that there was no longer any ‘substantive disagreement in the scientific community’ that artificial global warming is happening.”

He also notes that in 2005 the national science academies of the U.S., U.K., China, Germany and Japan issued a joint statement announcing that “significant global warming is occurring.”

But it wasn’t “case closed,” according to Easterbrook’s op-ed, until the Bush administration’s Climate Change Science Program announced this month that research supports “a substantial human impact on global temperature.”

It’s difficult to take this alleged conversion seriously. Since at least 1998, Easterbrook has consistently regurgitated global warming alarmism.

In a 1998 New Republic article, Easterbrook wrote that “the scientific consensus on global warming has strengthened,” that projected warming could be “quite nasty” and that “coming temperature increases appear cast in stone.”

In 2000, Easterbrook criticized CBS for “trivializing the greenhouse effect” by broadcasting the 1993 miniseries “The Fire Next Time,” which depicted the U.S. as destroyed by global warming in the year 2007. Later in 2000, Easterbrook wrote, “The signs of global warming keep accumulating… realistic steps against global warming could start right away. A warming world need no longer be our destiny.”

In 2003, Easterbrook criticized Democrats for being too critical of President Bush and discouraging him from “proposing… meaningful global warming rules.”

In 2004, Easterbrook wrote that, “There are troubling problems with Bush administration attitudes toward science, especially greenhouse gases.” In 2005, Easterbrook wrote that “restraining greenhouse gases” was “our next great environmental project.”

Contrary to assertions in his Times op-ed, Easterbrook’s writings indicate that he became a global warming convert long ago – not just this month. So what’s up with the melodramatic announcement of his “conversion”?

Easterbrook may be thinking that Al Gore’s movie and attendant hoopla will finally cause sufficient public panic to catapult the global warming alarmists to rhetorical victory. If so, Easterbrook may want to atone to the environmental activist community that he previously alienated by “A Moment on Earth” and any other eco-contrarian “moments” he has had over the last decade.

Easterbrook will no doubt be welcomed and forgiven for any past sins by the environmentalists since, as a prominent eco-contrarian writer, his supposed “conversion” from skeptic to convert purports to signal the public that a major turning point in the global warming debate has been reached.

I suppose a major turning point has been reached – Al Gore and the alarmists have seemingly gone over the edge in thinking that a movie rather than scientific debate is the way to resolve the global warming controversy. There certainly has been no change in the science – there is still no persuasive evidence that humans are adversely affecting global climate or that humans can manipulate global climate by regulating greenhouse gas emission.

Moreover, it’s quote ironic that the tipping point for Easterbrook was a statement about global warming from the Bush administration whose viewpoint apparently is not credible until it coincides with his own.

It’s quite laughable that Easterbrook and the New York Times fancy his imaginary status as a new convert of any importance to the global warming debate. It’s the science that’s important, not a journalist’s self-aggrandizement for political and possible career-advancing purposes.

And if there are two Gregg Easterbrooks, will the real skeptic please stand up?