03/05/2017 2:19 PM AEST

The Climate Science Denier Who Now Realises He Was Totally Wrong

Jerry Taylor could be the tip of the conservative iceberg.

Joe Raedle via Getty Images

Jerry Taylor has come in from the cold.

The 54-year-old policy analyst was (and in many ways still is) your classic conservative, who for years actively denied established climate science, and lobbied against initiatives to mitigate the effects of of human-induced climate change.

"Jerry Taylor is among the most widely cited and influential critics of federal energy and environmental policy in the nation," reads his blurb at The Cato institute -- one of America's leading libertarian, pro-free enterprise think tanks.

Though his bio still sits on its site, Taylor is no longer associated with the Cato Institute. His last published Cato article was in 2013. Since then, his views on established climate science have changed dramatically.

Today, Taylor is president of The Niskanen Center, which he founded in 2015. It's a libertarian think tank with a difference, in that it goes into bat for environmental causes. Taylor spends much of his time turning climate sceptics into climate activists.

But to use a little mafia speak, how did he flip?


18 months ago, HuffPost published a piece which debunked the graph below. The graph attempted to downplay global temperature rises which correlate with increased C02 output in the industrial age, by making the Y axis really, really small.

National Review

Now for the NASA graph that shows the same thing.

NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies


His story is nicely covered in an interview on The Intercept, in which he explains that:

"From 1991 through 2000, I was a pretty good warrior on that front. I was absolutely convinced of the case for skepticism with regard to climate science and of the excessive costs of doing much about it even if it were a problem. I used to write skeptic talking points for a living."

One day after a TV show, Taylor was challenged off-air by the guest he'd just debated to double check the data he'd (mis)quoted. He did this, and was shocked to learn he'd been deliberately fed inaccurate data by fellow climate science sceptics.

One thing led to another, until eventually, Taylor came right around not just to the science, but also to the the economics of trying to combat climate change. In short, it's about risk management. Just as banks factor in financial risk, the risks associated with climate change can't be discounted either.

So how does he feel about his earlier animosity towards the science?

"I regret a lot of it. I wish I had taken more care and done more due diligence on the arguments I had been forwarding.

"I also introduced one of my brothers, James Taylor, to the folks at The Heartland Institute. Heartland's rise to dominate market share in climate denialism largely occurred under my brother. Boy do I regret that."

Taylor went on to say that he believes as many as 50 house Republicans and 12 senators share his views, and are "looking for a way out of the denialist penitentiary they've been put into by the Tea Party".

It would be interesting to know how many conservative Australian MPs are in the same boat.