A former “professional climate denier” and his allies are mounting a campaign to persuade conservatives that the threat posed by climate change is real. Jerry Taylor, who in a previous life developed many of the arguments that conservatives cite against climate science, now runs the Niskanen Center, a libertarian-leaning think tank that’s working to debunk the very arguments he helped to advance. Another Republican, former congressman Bob Inglis, has separately founded his own organization, RepublicEn, with a similar mission.
Their distinct approach relies on conservative arguments to build support for climate science among the Republican establishment.
In the same interview, Taylor says that in meetings with Republican leaders, he typically opens with, “I understand why you’re skeptical. I probably wrote most of the talking points you’ve read. But I changed my mind, and let me explain why I did.”
Taylor says his fundamental shift in thinking occurred gradually and was largely spurred by arguments advanced by economists and other right-leaning thinkers. In an interview with Vox, he says that mounting scientific evidence became impossible to dismiss.
[T]he concern has been with us for over 30 years, and the case isn’t getting weaker. It seems to get stronger. And while one can do some gymnastics to continue to defend the “there’s nothing to see here, folks” argument, it became harder and harder.
Taylor is now on a mission to persuade other conservatives and he’s relying on science-based methodologies that target party elites, as opposed to voters. That’s because studies have shown that party leaders shape mass opinion, and not the other way around.