Lukewarmers under the microscope

Over at the blog Making Science Public, Brigitte Nerlich is trying to figure out who Lukewarmers are, what we actually think and how we’re different from skeptics and warmists. After a lot of discussion it turns out that we agree with the science, that there is an A in AGW, but that we also think sensitivity is lower than warmists. Not much of a revelation there.

One of the commenters on the thread is one of my favorite humans, Lucia Liljegren of The Blackboard. She pursues the topic in greater depth here, referring to Tamsin Edward’s post in The Guardian and is kind enough to mention me.

With all of that as background I would like to offer some thoughts on why there is a sudden flare-up of interest in Lukewarmers.


From the point of view of the consensus, it seems clear that a combination of the pause that may no longer be mentioned and observational studies showing the likelihood of a lower value for atmospheric sensitivity are pushing them to consider that Lukewarmers may well be correct.

As for the parallel universe inhabited by the Konsensus, those who exaggerate what the consensus says for political gain, these efforts by the better-educated and better-mannered consensus holders are galling. They are making a concerted effort to counter the more reasonable explorations of the Lukewarm ideas with their own propaganda.

Dana Nuccitelli at the Guardian is leading the charge to imprint the label of denier on Lukewarmers, making up stuff like “This group believes that the climate is relatively insensitive to the increasing greenhouse effect, and hence that climate change will proceed slowly enough as to not be a serious concern in the near future.” Not that he allows his article to be sullied by any conversation with Lukewarmers–not even a quote from things we’ve written in the past. Nuccitelli ends up calling us Stage 3 Denialists–I don’t know if that’s better than Stage 2 or Stage 4…

When Nuccitelli writes “For the Luckwarmer case to be true, first the climate sensitivity must be close to the lowest end of possible values” he writes something that is untrue. The IPCC provides a range of possible values for sensitivity. Lukewarmers almost by definition believe that sensitivity is within the range provided by the IPCC. We just think it’s at the lower end. My personal SWAG is about 2.1C.

Not to be outdone, Evil Eli Rabett has taken on the responsibility of popularizing the label ‘luckwarmer’ and taping it to our foreheads. He says we’re all from the far right and as delusional as he believe skeptics to be. Does that mean I can get a refund for 30 years of campaign contributions to Democratic candidates?

(Why do I call Eli Evil? Because he’s a trasher. Because Tamsin Edwards did not condemn us in her article, Eli wrote “Tamsin Edwards is Roger Pielke Jr. in training with a couple of good papers to her name. She is a careerist just like Roger, just a bit younger.” Anyone who reads Tamsin’s article will see immediately that this is not true. But Eli does this to everyone who doesn’t fall into lockstep with his rigid worldview.)

We could go case by case refuting the untruths written about Lukewarmers–and it might end up with a pretty good definition. As we don’t have a manifesto or anything like that, the definition of Lukewarmer has been pretty ad hoc.

But the fact that people are starting to write about us means that if we don’t come up with a definition someone else will do it for us. And the odds are pretty good that the someone will be as unprincipled and as careless about the truth as Dana Nuccitelli or Eli Rabett.

So let’s look at what Lucia Liljegren, one of the Lukewarm pioneers, has to say.

Lukewarmers are different from skeptics:

“Lukewarmer disagree with those who:
1) Believe CO2 has no net warming effect.
2) Believe the warming effect is so small that any observed rise in measured global temperature is 100% due to natural causes.
3) Believe the measured global temperature rise purely or mostly a result of “fiddling”.
4) Believe the world is more likely to cool over the next 100 years than warm.”

As for what we actually do believe, Lucia writes

“To expand, the list of things lukewarmers believe include:

* lukewarmers believe ECS is on the lower end of the IPCC AR4 range (note the AR5 range did move down). However, they believe it is inside that range. That is, they don’t think it has the optical properties of something like Nitrogen.

* lukewarmers recognize the magnitude of the temperature change matters as does the rate of change. So the magnitude of ECS matters. (If lower, the consequence of a set emissions level is lower than if it is higher.)

* lukewarmers think it’s important for the estimates of ECS used in economic models that are used to guide policy to not be biased by things like using inapproriate priors in statistical results or models that appear to be over-predicting the level of warming. In contrast, your comment specifically omitted this in your list of what is important.

* lukewarmers disagree with the rhetoric that suggests that we must all focus on the high end of ECS especially when the rhetoric seems to suggest this focus means we are to pay less attention to other features like the central estimates ( mean, median). In other words: they think we should use the full range out comes just as we normally do for things like life insurance car insurance and so on. We don’t base decisions only on the worst possible outcome. (This rhetoric that the high end is central exists exists– as ATTP’s site and in his comments indicate. Some may tap-dance carefully when implying this but its evident in the tone and sometimes directly stated.)”

That’s good enough for a starting point. But I’d appreciate your thoughts on this.

14 responses to “Lukewarmers under the microscope

  1. The climate catastrophists are a very large cult and hate those who are close to their beliefs but still rational.
    For me being a luke warmer is to first be honest with the data, the history and the science. That means accepting CO2’s role, along with other GHG’s, as known to date in the climate system. This also means accepting that if one accepts history the impact of increasing CO2 has been trivial on the climate: That its impact so far have not led to significant differences in weather patterns. This also means accepting that the data controlled by the climate extremists- temperature data and communication data- has been handled in ways that have been less than credible.

    • “The climate catastrophists are a very large cult and hate those who are close to their beliefs but still rational.” Is this fruitful dialogue?

  2. One of the commenters on the thread is one of my favorite humans, Lucia Liljegren

    I second that.

    It seems to me, the fight between alarmist and lukewarmers is not about ECS, that is merely a proxy. The battle is over solutions, though never spoken of. If ECS is high, it demands radical expensive solutions and the all the subsidies that accompany them. If it is low, the world has time to find more thoughtful, more sustainable solutions.

    Alarmists are using the world’s oldest sales tactic. Tomorrow is too late, you must act TODAY!.

    • Yeah, but I don’t get what they’re selling.

      • What they are selling is obvious:

        – Ethanol subsidies.
        – Ethanol mandates
        – Wind subsidies.
        – Wind mandates.
        – Solar subsidies.
        – Solar mandates.
        – The tilt in science funding toward anything with the word “climate” in the proposal.

        If I am not mistaken, the total bill for the above comes to about $1 Billion a day worldwide.

        – But then there is the big one, the wet dream of Goldman-Sachs….carbon trading.

        – And the biggest one of all: the grand-daddy of every constituency who wants a tax dollar but can’t find one – carbon taxes.

        I know that we disagree about politics and especially about the carbon tax but I hope we would agree that alarm over a potentially high ECS results in solutions that are neither wise, nor sustainable over the long term.

    • AI,
      I think they are using the *second* oldest sales technique. The oldest is part of the “oldest profession”.

  3. What I think is not emphasized enough is what a long term drawn out and uncertain problem this is. There is nothing about this that is going to hit us all at once. Climate is almost by definition slow and gradual. And the uncertainty should not be underestimated. Hansen does have a coherent scenario with methane from clathrates and permafrost causing a runaway effect. Maybe this is a long term process that was set in motion at the start of the Holocene when primitive humans started organizing and set off a spark that lit this primed methane that has accumulated over millions of years. Maybe cutting CO2 is futile and the only real prospects are in increasing our supply of usable energy and technology to give us more control over the planets’s energy balance.

  4. Seems the Warmists are getting increasingly desperate.

    Perhaps they are starting to grasp that their credibility is decreasing fast. For example…

    I believe it is incontrovertible that the whole AGW debate revolves around the increase in temperature caused by a doubling in the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide – commonly referred to as climate sensitivity, and that over the past three decades many billions of dollars have been expended researching this extremely important value. A low value indicates that we have little or nothing to fear from a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide, a high value indicates that we may have a serious problem.

    I doubt anyone on either side of the debate can disagree that this is a very important issue.

    So let us see how much progress has been made over the last couple of decades pinning down this extremely important number.

    The IPCC is commonly regarded as the most reputable authority on such matters, so let us see how estimates of the climate sensitivity have changed over the five IPCC Assessment Reports from 1990 to the present day, a period of some two and a half decades.

    Here are the ranges of value given by the five IPCC Assessment Reports that have been published to date.

    IPCC First assessment report 1.9 to 5.2°C, but states “…hence the models results do not justify altering the previously accepted range of 1.5 to 4.5°C

    IPCC Second Assessment Report 2 to 4.5 C”

    IPCC Third Assessment Report 1.5 to 4.5 °C

    IPCC Fourth Assessment Report 2 to 4.5 °C

    IPCC Fifth Assessment Report 1.5°C to 4.5°C

    Incidentally, the original 1.5- 4.5°C estimate came from the Charney report in 1979.

    Click to access charney_report.pdf

    So, despite the expenditure of many billions of dollars on research, estimates of the low and high limits of this most essential parameter have not changed in 35 years.

    Nice work if you can get it…

  5. Pingback: Identifying ‘Lukewarmism’ | Climate Resistance

  6. Well, I guess I’m not a Lukewarmer. I think that the sensitivity is lower than the IPCC estimated range. I think it’s possible to assign %ages to natural cycles and non GHG human effects.
    Even if we wanted to cut co2 emmissions in half, we could easily do it without any heroic effort. Only a few energy pigs would complain.

  7. Marty “Even if we wanted to cut co2 emmissions in half, we could easily do it without any heroic effort.”

    How about you demonstrate the procedure. Halve your energy in all forms and from all sources save only solar and wind, including the carbon cost of manufacturing your Leaf or Tesla.

    “Only a few energy pigs would complain.”

    In which case I think the world has about 3 billion energy pigs, many of them in northern latitudes where halving the energy consumption would result in houses barely above, or not far below, freezing for several months of the year.

    • Umm, Michael, we can reduce emissions without reducing energy. That’s kind of what the whole energy revolution is about. It doesn’t work perfectly yet.

      I kind of think calling the people on the other side of the table ‘pigs’ is not something designed to lead to fruitful dialogue. And if using energy to insure their homes are not freezing for several months of the year makes them pigs, then count me as an oinker.

      • Other side of which table? A lot of energy consumption is just plain gratuitous. I haven’t seen any fruitful dialogue here for some time.

    • What we need is the energy equivalent of the Lorenz curve. I bet it has the same shape.

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