How Wide is the Spectrum of Opinion on Climate Change?

One of the reasons I started this blog was to claim a piece of ideological territory for lukewarmers. I was tired of climate activists lumping me and other lukewarmers in with downright skeptics and calling me a ‘denier.’ To a much lesser extent, a few skeptics thought we were acting the part to gain sympathy from their side of the fence, but that we still believed more or less what the activists believe.

I think people like Steve McIntyre, Lucia Liljegren, Steve Mosher and others have helped stake out a centrist position. The position is defined not by the positions of others, but by our interpretation of the data as it exists today. We have no problems with the physics of the greenhouse effect, but we recognize that the largest issue in climate change–sensitivity of the atmosphere to a doubling of concentrations of CO2–is not a settled issue. Indeed, most lukewarmers think that sensitivity comes in on the low side of the IPCC range of 1.5-4.5C. My personal view is that it is roughly 2.1C.

But today I want to investigate the entire spectrum, from Monckton and Morano on the skeptic side to James Hansen and Kevin Trenberth on the activist side.

ratings game

So I’ll put it to you. Using a scale from 0-10, where 0 means complete skeptic and 10 means complete climate activist, how would you rate the following people?

Richard Lindzen

Ben Santer

Freeman Dyson

Kevin Trenberth

William Happer

Gavin Schmidt

Roger Pielke Sr.

Richard Betts

Roger Pielke Jr.

Steve McIntyre

Scott Mandia

Ivar Giaevar

Lucia Liljegren

Michael Mann

John Christy

Eric Steig

Michael Tobis

Judith Curry

Ken Rice (And Then There’s Physics)

Please feel free to add more names and ratings if you like.

If enough people take the time to rate these public figures it will be interesting to see where the gaps are in the continuum.

Thanks for your help.

8 responses to “How Wide is the Spectrum of Opinion on Climate Change?

  1. There is more than one thing to rate and they’re not easy to wrap up into one value. What a person’s value for climate sensitivity is one thing, but activism is another issue. Actual knowledge rather than emotional judgement is another measure. A person’s route to their position is another. Did the person start out as an activist and then adopt climate change or were they a climate scientist who decided to take up the cause of reducing CO2? Does the person separate the science from the policy? How do you rate a professional against a blogger? The latter might actually be more involved. Has a person’s involvement increased or decreased over the years – a new recruit might be more passionate than an old soldier. Is their activism separate from their actions (eg do they walk the walk)? Does the scale of what someone has done outweigh what they do over time ie is one massive act deserve a higher value than someone who has been moderately involved for decades?

    I’m not sure that I know enough about these people to answer these issues. Sorry.

    • I’d go further than “not easy to wrap up” on this – I’ll submit that it’s simply not possible to rate anyone on a single scale. As you point out, the subject is far too complex.

      As an example let’s look at Bjorn Lomborg (inexplicably left off the list): he’s pretty much all in on AGW science, but is also very opposed to the consensus position on policy prescriptions. He is also extremely active in promoting his own policy prescriptions the nature of which get him reviled as a denier.

      So what rating would he deserve on this single scale? I’d say that a case could be made for anything from 0 to 10, depending on who you ask. As such, the rating really only tells you something about the rater.

  2. It is tragicomic that a movement claiming the mantle of science hates skeptics so much. Do you have access to any of the poll software? If you created a link to a poll site my bet is you could this most recent interesting work you are doing in front of a lot o people.

  3. It still might be interesting to see the perceptions. You have to consider that to the likes of a Chris Mooney (to pick just one of many examples), a “middle of the road” position on either the science or politics simply does not exist. The Pielke’s, McIntyre, Curry and the like are Deniers, end of discussion.

    If you gave this survey to a general population, I suspect you’d see a lot of zeros and tens. This crowd is more likely to turn in a few ratings in the 4-6 range. It probably says more about the raters than the rate-ees.

  4. As one above commenter noted, this is going to say a lot about me but I’ll try to be objective. (BTW,I’d rate myself 4).

    Richard Lindzen-2
    Ben Santer-9
    Freeman Dyson-4
    Kevin Trenberth-10
    William Happer-2
    Gavin Schmidt-10
    Roger Pielke Sr.-5
    Richard Betts-8
    Roger Pielke Jr.-6
    Steve McIntyre-4
    Scott Mandia-10
    Ivar Giaevar-3
    Lucia Liljegren-6
    Michael Mann-10
    John Christy-3
    Eric Steig-10
    Michael Tobis-9
    Judith Curry-5
    Ken Rice (And Then There’s Physics)-9

    My opinion is that the largest gap is between a strong lukewarmer and full on activists. And let’s say that a full on activist is 9 or 10 and a strong lukewarmer is 6. So if would took poll of everyone with a decently formed opinion, I would say that 8 or 7 would have the fewest occurrences.

    • I also should have noted that I would rate a 1 to those like the Sky Dragon Slayers (e.g. Joe Postma, John O’Sullivan).

    • I compared my ratings to yours and we agree on almost every one, so it would be redundant to post my ratings.

      The only two I would disagree with would be Scott Mandia and Ken Rice (And Then There’s Physics) who I would score as 11. Sarcasm aside, there should be an extra point awarded for activism that is not grounded in science.

      • Surely Mann should get 12 then. Not only does he do activism not grounded in science, he also does science not grounded in science.

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