Civil War on the Left, Part 28: Varieties of Climate Change Thinkers

Berkeley physicist Richard Muller offers in his book Energy for Future Presidents a typology of thought on climate change:

So how do you classify me? A climate change denier? A global warming believer? In my book, Energy for Future Presidents (pig 74) I give the following categories:

Alarmists. They pay little attention to the details of the science. They are “unconvincibles.” They say the danger is imminent, so scare tactics are both necessary and appropriate, especially to counter the deniers. They implicitly assume that all global warming and human-caused global warming are identical.

Exaggerators. They know the science but exaggerate for the public good. They feel the public doesn’t find an 0.64°C change threatening, so they have to cherry-pick and distort a little—for a good cause.

Warmists. These people stick to the science. They may not know the answer to every complaint of the skeptics, but they have grown to trust the scientists who work on the issues. They are convinced the danger is serious and imminent.

Lukewarmists. They, too, stick to the science. They recognize there is a danger but feel it is uncertain. We should do something, but it can be measured. We have time.

Skeptics. They know the science but are bothered by the exaggerators, and they point to serious flaws in the theory and data analysis. They get annoyed when the warmists ignore their complaints, many of which are valid. This group includes auditors, scientists who carefully check the analysis of others.

Deniers.They pay little attention to the details of the science. They are “unconvincibles.” They consider the alarmists’ proposals dangerous threats to our economy, so exaggerations are both necessary and appropriate to counter them.

I am probably closest to being a “lukewarmist”. So would I be placed in the category of denier?

Well, for the mainstream Climatistas (and several Democratic Senators who took to the floor of the Senate for two days this week to denounce anyone doesn’t submit to the purist line), the answer to Prof. Muller’s last question is an unequivocal Yes.

But I think the Democrat senators’ stunt is a sign of the desperation of the extreme climate camp. The New York Times over the weekend had an interesting article about the divisions among the climatistas:

But the movement that started with a straightforward mission — to get more people to appreciate the dangers of climate change as a precursor to action — is feeling growing pains. What may seem like a unified front has pronounced schisms, with conflicting opinions on many issues, including nuclear power and natural gas, that are complicating what it means to be an environmentalist in this day and age.

The factional boundaries are not hard and fast, with groups shifting their positions as the science and waves of activism evolve. The environmental movement has always been a congregation of many voices, and some disagreement should be expected on such complex and intractable problems as saving the planet. Still, the tensions remain strong.

The article goes on to discuss the divisions over nuclear power (which we’ve covered here many times before), natural gas and fracking, and whether to work with corporations or simply demonize all business. The story continues:

Given these fault lines on various issues, a question naturally arises: Are they hurting the overall environmental movement?

Answer: Yes, but not enough. Green Weenies all around though.


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