I was going to ignore Tamsin Edwards’s article in the Guardian, but there was one phrase that, I think, deserves due diligence and which – IMO – illustrates the problem with how the whole article is framed. The article was largely about Lukewarmers, who are essentially those who think that our climate’s sensitivity to changes in anthropogenic forcings will be on the low side of the IPCC range. If you want a critique of the Lukewarmer position, you could try this.
The phrase that bothered me was this one:
And that’s because the Earth’s sensitivity to carbon dioxide is still an open question. Are we destined for dangerous warming, or could we still keep things tolerably tepid?
Why does this bother me? Well, because it appears to essentially buy into the whole alarmist framing (destined for dangerous warming), and makes it appear that the Lukewarmers think we could keep things tolerably tepid. Well, this is the wrong way around. The Lukewarmers think we don’t need to really bother doing anything specific, because it will be tolerably tepid all by itself. It’s those dastardly alarmists who think that there are risks associated with continuing to increase our emissions, and that maybe we should do something to minimise these risks. So, I think it’s unfortunate that Tamsin appears to have framed it in this way, as it – IMO – adds undue legitimacy to the Lukewarmer position, and largely misrepresents the alternative.
However, I was going to say that I broadly agree with the overall message in the article, but I’m not sure I really do. In a sense, I’m not sure I even get the point. Is it better that some now accept – at some level – anthropogenic global warming? Sure, but I’m not sure why we should applaud people for not being completely wrong. Is it good that they’re part of the debate? Well, yes, of course. That’s kind of the point of democracy; everyone should be free to participate. Do they need some kind of protection from criticism and a patronising pat on the back for at least trying to be credible? Well, no, that’s not a condition of participating. Would it be better if there were less name calling? Yes, of course. However, given that the current Lukewarmer argument appears to include a suggestion that those who disagree with them are advocating for the death of millions, I’m not going to spend too much of my time worrying about it. If Lukewarmers were genuinely concerned about the prevalence of name calling, then they’d stop doing it themselves. Although, maybe they think that accusing others of being responsible for a future genocide doesn’t qualify?
However, I do think that the motivation behind the article is decent; let’s applaud and encourage better dialogue. I just think that the general framing is poor. If people want to hold a Lukewarmer position, they’re free to do so. They shouldn’t, however, expect some special protection from criticism and expect to be applauded just because their scientific position is marginally consistent with that of most experts.