Patrick Moore vs. Patrick Moore on Climate Change
Patrick Moore has been in the news recently, trashing the Green New Deal and allowing a wide variety of conservative media outlets to imply that Greenpeace is criticizing the proposed policy.
Patrick Moore does not represent Greenpeace. He left Greenpeace in 1986, after 15 years, and he has spent the last 33 years promoting a wide variety of polluting companies. Most recently, Moore has worked with climate denial think tanks, the tar sands mining industry, and the coal industry. Patrick Moore is a lobbyist and public relations consultant.
Mr. Moore touts his Ph.D in Ecology, although it appears that Moore has never published any scientific research in an independent science journal.
Mr. Moore is known for dismissing the science of climate change, but he was not always a climate change denier. This post assembles a long collection of Moore's quotes on climate change. Most of these quotes are sourced from Moore's own website, and the website of his former firm, Greenspirit Strategies.
Below is a timeline of Moore’s quotes and media appearances, color-coded to indicate whether he accepted the basic science of climate change, disputed or downplayed scientists understanding of climate change, or if he attempted to do both.
Patrick Moore's Shifting Position on Climate Change:
October 25, 2004: In an op-ed for the Vancouver Sun, Moore promoted geothermal technology as a tool to mitigate carbon emissions and climate change. (Moore specifically cites the company NextEnergy, a company he was an executive of--it is unclear if he was affiliated with NextEnergy when the op-ed was published)
“Canada has signed the Kyoto Protocol, pledging to reduce CO2 emissions and lower the risk of global warming. Geothermal energy promises to help fulfil that pledge.”
February, 19, 2005: In an op-ed published in the Vancouver Sun, Miami Herald, and other newspapers, Moore scolded some environmentalists for opposing “nuclear power” and “forestry,” from a climate change perspective:
Their zero-tolerance, fear-mongering campaigns would ultimately...block a solution to global warming, and contribute to deforestation. How sick is that?
March 4, 2005: In an op-ed in the Toronto Sun, Moore suddenly had doubts:
“The world’s climate has always been changing; it is impossible to tell if our activities are responsible for global warming.”
April 28, 2005: In testimony delivered by Moore to the U.S. House Committee on Government Reform’s Energy and Resources subcommittee, quoted in part by MSNBC, Moore was again explicit about the fossil fuel industry’s exacerbation of climate change:
In a 'business as usual' scenario a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) seems unlikely given our continued heavy reliance on fossil fuels. An investment in nuclear energy would go a long way to reducing this reliance and could actually result in reduced C02 emissions from power generation.
According to the Clean Air Council, annual power plant emissions are responsible for 36% of carbon dioxide (C02), 64% of sulfur dioxide (S02), 26% of nitrogen oxides (NOX), and 33% of mercury emissions (Hg).
These four pollutants cause significant environmental impact, including acid rain, smog, respiratory illness, mercury contamination, and are the major contributors to GHG emissions.
Among power plants, old coal-fired plants produce the majority of these pollutants. By contrast, nuclear power plants produce an insignificant quantity of these pollutants.
If the U.S. is to meet its ever-increasing demands for energy while reducing the threat of climate change and reliance on overseas oil, then the American nuclear industry must be revitalized and permitted to grow
December 15, 2005: the Japan Times quoted Moore’s pro-nuclear position as a reaction to climate change. As reposted by Moore’s former firm:
Japan should promote nuclear power and renewable energy sources to replace fossil fuels to fight global warming, a Canadian scientist said Wednesday.
Although Japan has tried more sincerely than other developed countries to achieve its greenhouse gas emission cuts under the Kyoto Protocol, its efforts won’t be effective enough to reach the goal, according to Patrick Moore, chairman and chief scientist of Greenspirit Strategies, a Canadian environment consultancy.
“The only solution I can see . . . is aggressive combination of renewable and nuclear energy,” Moore told reporters Wednesday in Tokyo.
January 22, 2006: In a Washington Times op-ed reposted on his personal website, Moore opens and closes his argument for "managed forests" as a tool to mitigate climate change:
As the world seeks ways to cut atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) — the greenhouse gas produced by burning fossil fuels — science says managed forests will play a key role.
[...] In the age of climate change, Johnny Appleseed takes on a new meaning.
April 16, 2006: In a Washington Post op-ed that was reprinted in many state newspapers, Moore was apparently concerned about “catastrophic climate change”
Thirty years on, my views have changed, and the rest of the environmental movement needs to update its views, too, because nuclear energy may just be the energy source that can save our planet from another possible disaster: catastrophic climate change.
Look at it this way: More than 600 coal-fired electric plants in the United States produce 36 percent of U.S. emissions — or nearly 10 percent of global emissions — of CO2, the primary greenhouse gas responsible for climate change.
June, 8 2006: During an Australian radio program interview, Moore said that nuclear energy...
“...does not produce air pollution, it does not produce greenhouse gases like the fossil fuels coal and natural gas do, and it’s a no-brainer, in a sense, in terms of addressing climate change, air pollution and energy requirements for the future.”
June 11, 2006: Moore delivered a very similar line to the Sunday Times of Australia:
I changed my opinion on nuclear energy long before I became involved with the nuclear energy associations – I’m very frank about that.
“Times have changed. Climate change was not an issue 10-15 years ago like it is today.
January 13, 2006: in a speech at a conference of chemical and biotech companies, Moore used a discredited argument to claim that more industrial CO2 emissions are simply good for the planet. As preserved by DeSmogBlog:
According to an article in the Honolulu Advertiser, “Moore contended that global warming and the melting of glaciers is positive because it creates more arable land and the use of forest products drives up demand for wood and spurs the planting of more trees. He added that any realistic plan to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and the emission of so-called greenhouse gases should include increased use of nuclear energy.”
Feb. 1, 2006: According to a transcript of a CBS interview with Jim Axelrod, archived on Nexis, Moore stated:
If we want to reduce the threat of climate change, nuclear energy is the only safe, affordable, clean source of energy that can replace fossil fuels and the air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions that they produce.
September 5, 2006: During a debate over nuclear power as a climate solution, hosted by the Economist magazine in London, Moore stated:
I would just conclude by saying that I believe it is true nuclear is the only non-greenhouse-gas-emitting power source that can effectively replace fossil fuels, while at the same time, satisfying our future demand for energy. Thank you.
September 21, 2006: In a press release published by Moore's former firm, Greenspirit Strategies, Moore defended ExxonMobil’s aggressive climate science denial from the U.K. Royal Society:
Certainly the Royal Society would agree there is no scientific proof of causation between the human-induced increase in atmospheric CO2 and the recent global warming trend, a trend that has been evident for about 500 years, long before the human-induced increase in CO2 was evident.
November 9, 2006 Moore spoke at an event and promoted nuclear power as a solution to climate change. As reported by the Press-Enterprise in Riverside, California:
...Moore now believes nuclear energy could be the answer for global warming.
The future balance of “positive” vs. “negative” impacts from climate change is both difficult to determine and depends on where one lives. Warming should result in increased rainfall overall. We don’t know the extent of sea level rise, I believe it is exaggerated. Nonetheless it would be prudent to reduce fossil fuel consumption for a number of reasons, including reducing the risk of serious negative consequences.
February 15, 2007: in an op-ed published in The Independent, a newspaper in the United Kingdom, Moore stated,
I am not an alarmist on the subject of climate change. But I do believe that it would be very wise to adopt a realistic program to reduce CO2 emissions. Nuclear energy has an impressive operational record, yet unease continues to surround this proven source of clean and safe power. Each concern deserves careful consideration.
February 23, 2007: In an op-ed published in the New York Post, Moore wrote,
Climate change is now high on the global agenda, and I believe nuclear energy holds the greatest potential to arrest the dangers we face from global warming. It is the only non-greenhouse-gas-emitting power source capable of effectively replacing fossil fuels and satisfying growing demand.
February 24, 2007: Moore emphasized the “negative impacts” of climate change in a San Jose Mercury News op-ed, a near-copy of his 2006 Washington Post op-ed. Moore acknowledged that industrial CO2 emissions are “the primary greenhouse gas responsible for climate change.”
More than 30 years on, my views have changed, and the rest of the environmental movement needs to update its views, too, because nuclear energy may just be an energy source that can help save our planet from another potential disaster: the serious negative impacts of climate change.
Look at it this way: More than 600 coal-fired electric plants in the United States produce 36 percent of U.S. emissions — or nearly 10 percent of global emissions — of carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas responsible for climate change. Nuclear energy is the only large-scale, cost-effective energy source that can reduce these emissions while continuing to satisfy a growing demand for power.
February 26, 2007: in an op-ed for the Toronto Star, Moore promoted the use of landfill gas in energy production as a way to reduce global CO2 emissions:
In both these cases, burning for energy and converting landfill gas can provide new energy sources that offset carbon dioxide emissions resulting from traditional fossil-fuel energy sources such as coal and gas.
Given the level of public interest in CO2 emissions reduction as a means of guarding ourselves against the effects of a warming planet, the benefits of this approach are clear.
March, 2007, in an article for the Stockholm Network, Moore stated:
I believe nuclear energy may prove to be the key energy source that protects our planet from the negative effects of climate change, perhaps the biggest environment [sic] issue the world faces today.
We know climate change is strongly related to energy in the form of fossil fuels, which account for about 85 percent of the world’s total energy consumption. Let’s examine the largest global greenhouse gas emitter: coal. [...]
March 10, 2007: A discredited documentary called “The Great Global Warming Swindle” aired in the United Kingdom. The Aberdeen Press & Journal in Scotland quoted Moore in a statement rejecting climate change as a “scam.”
One of the most persuasive experts was Patrick Moore, not the astronomer, but the co-founder of Greenpeace, of all people. He said that anyone who stands up against the global warming fraternity is treated like a Holocaust denier, yet the truth is that the whole scam is being promoted by a combination of anti-car, anti-capitalist zealots and western governments who do not want to see the underdeveloped nations of the world progress to the point that they pose a threat.
[Reference: "Cold Blood not so Hot," Aberdeen Press & Journal, Mar. 10, 2007]
March 11, 2007: The U.K.'s Belfast Telegraph also celebrated the film, quoting Moore:
If you're sceptical about the litany behind climate change, it's suddenly as if you're a Holocaust denier.
[Reference: “Channel Hopper,” Sunday Life, Belfast Telegraph, Mar. 11, 2007]
March 25, 2007: In the United States, not all reporters heard about Moore’s televised quote in the U.K. The St. Joseph News-Press in Missouri paraphrased from Moore’s previous op-eds in the U.S.:
Once a staunch critic who equated nuclear energy with nuclear holocaust, Mr. Moore said nuclear power is the most efficient way to avoid catastrophic climate change while meeting America's growing need for energy.
[Reference: Jimmy Meyers, “Nuclear energy gets refitted with an improved image,” St. Joseph News-Press, Mar. 25, 2007]
March 31, 2007: As quoted by the New Zealand Herald, Moore stated:
Nuclear energy may just be the energy source that can save our planet from another possible disaster: catastrophic climate change
(“Pro-nuclear voice in the wilderness, New Zealand Herald, Mar. 31, 2007)
April 6, 2007: Moore tried to rectify his conflicting positions on climate change, erring on the side of science, in an interview with the Houston Chronicle:
Despite his skepticism toward the certainty some profess for the causes behind global warming, Moore doesn't believe the world should just wait for more evidence.
"There's no doubt we're changing the chemistry of the planet, and that's not good," he said. Cutting back on fossil fuels makes good sense as an "insurance policy" against the possibility they truly are the main culprit behind climate change.
April 19, 2007: Moore again took a malleable position in an interview published by the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, this time leaning in favor of arguments used to dismiss the science:
He said levels of carbon dioxide are rising from power plant emissions and automobiles, but said that the Earth's climate has been warming - with some peaks and valleys - for about 10,000 years, since the last ice age. Mr. Moore cited the International Panel on Climate Change, which said that human activity is very likely the cause of global warming over the last 50 years, but said that conclusion was not reached scientifically, saying that there was guesswork in its findings.
Still, he called for cutting greenhouse emissions as a form of insurance so that the atmosphere is not damaged.
"I'm concerned because we're altering the chemistry of the global atmosphere," he said. "There is a chance that what we're doing to the atmosphere is harmful. ... We're using 300 million years of fossil fuel production in a few centuries."
(Martin Luttrell, “A little less green; Greenpeace co-founder backs nuclear energy,” Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Apr. 19, 2007)
April 23, 2007: in an interview with E&E Publishing, just four days later, Moore dropped the doubt and resumed promoting nuclear power as a way to address climate change:
...it's very clear to me that today, in today's environment of concern for climate change and concern for clean air that nuclear energy satisfies both those concerns. It is both clean from the point of view of air pollution--and air pollution from fossil fuels is one of the biggest public health concerns we have in the country and in the world--and it's also clean from a climate change point of view. It doesn't emit carbon dioxide like fossil fuels do.
May 2, 2007: Moore was featured among many longtime climate science deniers on Glenn Beck’s “Exposed: The Climate of Fear” special on CNN. Moore accused scientists and environmentalists of scaremongering, but continuing to promote nuclear as a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions:
That is what actually drives me nuts, is you`ve got Greenpeace and other major environmental groups saying that the civilization and the environment are going to be destroyed by global warming, catastrophe, chaos, and all of these scary words, and yet they are unwilling to adopt nuclear energy.
June 21, 2007: Moore avoided explicit acknowledgement of climate change during a June, 2007 interview with Glenn Beck on CNN:
Absolutely, Glenn. It’s really quite ironic that the people who are most concerned about climate change and carbon emissions from fossil fuels are against the one technology that is doing the most to reduce carbon emissions in the whole of the United States.
December 10, 2007: In an op-ed published by multiple outlets, Moore opens with the following paragraphs:
For years the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the United Nations has warned us that greenhouse gas emissions from our fossil fuel consumption threaten the world’s climate in ways we will regret. This year it won the Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts.
You don’t have to be a true believer in human-caused climate change to take the IPCC’s opinion seriously. We are contributing to a change in the chemistry of the global atmosphere by increasing its carbon dioxide concentration at an appreciable rate. Even a sceptical person must accept that there is a risk associated with altering the balance of greenhouse gasses on a global scale. And there is no doubt that the most effective way to limit this risk is to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
January 31, 2008: In an interview with CNET, Moore took a malleable position on climate science, but was consistent with his support for nuclear energy.
It wasn’t until after I’d left Greenpeace and the climate change issue started coming to the forefront that I started rethinking energy policy in general and realized that I had been incorrect in my analysis of nuclear as being some kind of evil plot.
[...] That is true in the case of nuclear power, where they are the ones who are screaming that the sky is falling and that the climate catastrophe is coming and it’s going to be global and it’s going to cause 40 to 50 percent of all the species to become extinct and it’s going to be the end of civilization as we know it. And yet, they are against nuclear energy just because there could be an accident somewhere. How could one nuclear accident be worse than the whole world being destroyed?
[...] And we will use the electricity to charge all our plug-in hybrids. We are going to need more electricity in the future for that. It doesn’t make sense to charge a battery with a coal-fired power plant from an air pollution or climate point of view.
March 4, 2008: In an article by MoneyWeb, Moore was quoted dismissing the seriousness of climate change and misrepresenting the scientific community’s understanding of the problem in 2006 (and, in more recent research).
Moore acknowledges that carbon levels in the atmosphere have been rising and temperature trends seem to have also risen. But science, he says, has yet to be persuaded that human activity is causing global warming and by its own very long term standards, the world today is still quite cool. He says this year’s northern winter has been the coldest in years and satellite photos have shown that the polar ice cap has been restored completely.
“There’s so much ice the polar bears can’t get at the seals.”
March 17, 2008: Moore told a reporter at Capitol Valley that his pro-nuclear position was out of concern for climate change:
Dr. Moore wants to steer the U.S. back to being a nuclear nation in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
April 12, 2008, Moore praised the Massachusetts legislature for taking steps to support a nuclear plant in a Quincy Patriot-Ledger op-ed:
As a life-long environmentalist, I’m very heartened that the Massachusetts Legislature appears poised to enact energy legislation that will help the state move in the right direction on CO2 reduction.
[...] The electricity that Pilgrim [nuclear power plant] supplies is created with practically zero greenhouse gas emissions and therefore it does not contribute to global warming.
June 5, 2008: Moore accepted the need to reduce industrial greenhouse gas emissions, and even promoted a carbon tax over cap-and-trade. From an interview in the Wenatchee World:
WW: Is there any hope to reduce our carbon emissions related to energy production to the extent we need to to control global climate change?
Moore: Yes. The strategy should be to go from 50 percent coal and 20 percent nuclear to 50 percent nuclear and 20 percent coal. And at the same time, build up what renewables are effective, are possible. Wind should probably be doubled from what it is now, but not without listening to the utility people, who are the ones who have to balance these loads.
WW: So what are the incentives to change. What do you think about cap-and-trade, and carbon trading systems?
Moore: Well, I personally have watched the history of the carbon-trading system in Europe. And the big beneficiaries tend to be the big emitters of carbon dioxide. They end up somehow rigging the system, so they get all the money. And it would actually be much fairer and easier to account if we had a straight carbon tax, if that’s what people wanted. Every atom of carbon that goes into the atmosphere should be taxed, exactly the same amount. Then you would have a much better and more accountable system.
The cap and trade system is so fraught with opportunities for bad accounting and politics that I don’t think it will work. I think the reason congress is choosing it is because the public doesn’t like the word “tax.”
June 5, 2008: On the very same day as the Wenatche World interview (above), the editorial board of the Columbia Basin Herald quoted Moore's claim that there was no scientific proof of global warming’s root in human industrial activity.
“We don’t have scientific proof we are the cause of global warming,” Moore said. “If you do (have proof) please write it down on a piece of paper.”
Moore presented documented data showing amongst other things the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere increasing to 380 parts per million last year, an increase in Arctic ice by 30 percent in 2007, and global temperatures decreasing since 1998.
He showed documented levels of CO2 charted for the last billion years. The data showed the average global temperature swaying back and forth from 12 degrees Celsius (53.6 degrees Fahrenheit) during ice ages to 22 degrees Celsius (71.6 degrees Fahrenheit) in the greenhouse eras.
March 4, 2009: In an op-ed for the Vancouver Sun, Moore cited the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and acknowledged the scientific community’s understanding that healthy forests mitigate climate change:
The International Panel on Climate Change and the Kyoto Climate Treaty specifically recognize that forest management plays a positive role in absorbing CO2 and preventing its release in the first place.
March 22, 2011: Moore expressed doubts about climate science to the National Post, a Canadian newspaper. In a favorable profile of Moore, reporter Kevin Libin described Moore’s work against numerous environmental causes, including climate change:
He defends the lumber industry in the name of true “sustainability,” arguing that foresters have planted more trees than they’ve cut, a far better outcome than anything that comes from construction using concrete and steel; he finds wind and solar power largely useless (though he’s a big fan of geothermal heat); supports the oil sands; champions pesticides and genetically modified crops as answers to over farming the land; and even concedes skepticism about the supposed dangers of climate change.
May, 2011: In an interview with EnergyBiz, published in its May/June 2011 issue, Moore continued to promote nuclear energy in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, but dismissed the seriousness of climate change:
I do not have a huge concern about global warming or climate change in this sort of catastrophic sense. I don’t believe that that’s the way it should be framed. Nuclear waste is new fuel. Used nuclear fuel is in fact one of our most important future energy resources, and 50 years of spent fuel can make 500 to 1,000 years of energy. I do not see that there is a problem at the present moment with used nuclear fuel. It is being stored very well. No one is being harmed by it. One of those reactors at Fukushima was burning mixed oxide fuel from recycled used nuclear fuel.
I am a skeptic on climate change. I know the climate is changing, and it always has been. I've studied this intensively over many years. I started what I call the Carbon Project here in British Columbia back in 1989 in order to bring everybody together to discuss this subject and figure out the facts behind it. Since then, I have watched as hysteria has grown, as if the whole world is going to come to an end and civilization is going to die because of humans causing this climate change. I don't buy that, and I certainly know we don't have any proof of it. I'm not denying that we might be playing some role, but the natural factors that have always caused climate change have not suddenly disappeared. I'm very skeptical of the alarmist nature of climate campaigning.
March 15, 2012: Moore told a South Korean newspaper that reducing greenhouse gas emissions was an important benefit of nuclear power:
Moore, who once regarded atomic energy as the worst brainchild of humans, is now criticizing the so-called renewable energies such as wind and solar power.
[...] In particular, Moore stressed the significance of nuclear power as around two fifths of global carbon dioxide emissions are from fossil fuel-fired power plants involving coal and gas.
November 14, 2012: Moore appeared to accept climate science in an San Diego Union-Tribune op-ed appealing to Californians to keep nuclear plants operating indefinitely:
California has led the country in climate change initiatives, supporting clean energy projects and enacting stringent greenhouse gas standards. Moving forward, the state will need a diverse energy mix that includes nuclear power to meet its energy needs and greenhouse gas emission reduction goals simultaneously.
December 30, 2012: In a blog post, Moore accepted that the planet is warming, accepted that fossil fuels contribute to increased CO2 in the atmosphere, but then denied the link between the increased CO2 and temperature:
Global climate change is another area where extreme statements are made, in this case on both sides of the debate, when there is little in science to defend them. Some things are quite certain. Carbon dioxide levels are rising and our consumption of fossil fuels and deforestation in the tropics are probably the main causes. There is a lot of evidence that the earth’s climate is warming: the glaciers in Alaska are retreating and great egrets are visiting northern Lake Huron. But here the consensus ends.
July 22, 2013: In an interview with the Forum on Energy, Moore seemed to be aware that his statements on climate change are not consistent, and he attempted to rectify the apparent contradiction:
My opinion that nuclear energy is safe, clean and sustainable was formed in the mid-1990s during the reconsideration of energy policy in light of climate change. It is obvious that nuclear energy, when replacing fossil fuel technology, reduces CO2 emissions by more than 95 percent. Ironically I soon became highly skeptical of the possibility of human-caused catastrophic climate change, yet I still believe strongly that nuclear energy will become more desirable and necessary as time passes.
Since 2013, Moore appears to have been consistent in rejecting the widespread understanding of climate change's causes and the threats the phenomenon poses to humanity. For example:
As I have stated publicly on many occasions, there is no definitive scientific proof, through real-world observation, that carbon dioxide is responsible for any of the slight warming of the global climate that has occurred during the past 300 years, since the peak of the Little Ice Age.