I wrote about Lukewarmers a while back. Idiotracker has also discussed them, and Eli calls them Luckwarmers. Tamsin Edwards’s recent Guardian article has, however, reinvigorated the topic and Brigitte Nerlich has tried to understand the emergence and spread of such labels.
My understanding of the basic Lukewarmer viewpoint is that they regard lower climate sensitivity values as being more likely than the IPCC suggests, and higher one as being less likely. Replace IPCC with mainstream scientists, or whatever other term seems more appropriate, if you wish. Since the impacts probably depend on the temperature change, this means that Lukewarmers presumably think that, for a given future emission pathway, the impacts will probably be less severe than the IPCC suggests. This then means that we potentially have more time to develop sensible policy and technology, and that we can focus on other important things, before focusing on what should be done with regards to climate change. It would seem, though, that Lukewarmers essentially ignore – or downweight – evidence that suggests that their preferred probability distribution function may be incorrect.
I have, unfortunately, made the mistake of reading some recent posts by self-professed Lukewarmers. I won’t link to them, but you can probably find them if you want to. It appears that there are some subtleties about Lukewarmers that I may not have appreciated. The range for the scientific view seems quite broad, and appears – in some cases – to essentially include the full IPCC position and – in others – to be verging on outright denial. There are some other subtleties. Lukewarmers apparently regard themselves as being in the sensible middle, between two extremes. This presumably means that everyone else regards themselves as being in one of the ridiculous extremes? Lukewarmers apparently want to do reasonable, good things, as opposed to everyone else who wants to do silly, bad things. Apparently being a Lukewarmer also means that if you can’t actually find an explicit description of someone else’s view, you can just make one up, because it is obvious what it has to be. In addition, if you can find one, you can still say “they might have said this, but it’s clear that they really meant that”. Apparently, virtually everyone else is a Green activist. Lukewarmers also seem to think that “play the ball, not the man” applies only to other people; labels are discouraged, unless you are a self-professed Lukewarmer.
So, all in all, I’ve been rather confused by this whole episode. I think it probably stems from my assuming that the Lukewarmer viewpoint was a scientific viewpoint, rather than a political viewpoint. I suspect that Chris Shaw’s comment on Brigitte Nerlich’s post puts things into the right perspective. Lukewarmerism appears to be a way of attempting to justify a certain policy position, rather than a genuine attempt to develop a position based on a reasonable interpretation of the available evidence. If things go as they have in the recent past, I will be vitriolically told that I’m completely wrong about this, by people who then say things that are entirely consistent with what I’ve just said.
Moderation note: I know my tagline has changed, but civility is still encouraged. Let’s keep comments civil and thoughtful. I’ve also discovered that Lukewarmers tend to be very sensitive. Mild criticism is, according to some Lukewarmers, an attack. As such, I’m going to moderate heavily if necessary; I’m not interested in any attacks on individuals – well, mild criticisms.