I was reading (don’t ask me why) Ben Pile’s analysis of this whole Lukewarmer issue. If anyone wants an illustration of why I said things like
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…… 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
in my previous post, Ben’s post is a good place to start. I wasn’t going to analyse his post, or discuss what he says – as that would be silly – I was simply going to comment on what Ben says in his update. Roger Pielke Jr appears to have objected to being a labelled a Lukewarmer, and so Ben updates his post with
Roger Pielke Jr. tweets that he rejects the term ‘lukewarmer’, and adds: “Distinguishing political perspectives according to ECS is antithetical to robust policy & inclusive politics”.
I don’t always see eye-to-eye with Roger Pielke Jr, but this is – I think – a very good point, assuming I’ve interpreted it correctly. Fundamentally, the evidence base should be broadly the same. What we decide to do, given that evidence base, is what we should really be discussing. That people seem to be arguing about, or defining themselves according to, something like ECS, rather than about what we should do given the range for ECS, is what lead to me to say
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.
To be fair, I would dislike it if someone claimed that my scientific position was motivated by my policy preferences, so the above is – as should be obvious – a general impression, and is not aimed at any specific individual. I also realise that Lukewarmers are more diverse than my simple description might indicate. However, it does seem as though many Lukewarmers do define themselves according to what they think climate sensitivity (ECS) will be, and – typically – choose a likely/probable range that is not consistent with that presented by the IPCC/mainstream science.
Let me clarify a few things, though. Continuing to investigate climate sensitivity and trying to constrain the range more accurately is – of course – a good thing; that’s what science is about. Discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the different lines of evidence is also a perfectly valid thing to do; again this is a fundamental part of science. There is a caveat, though; that’s why you talk to experts, they can tell you about the different lines of evidence and why some might be stronger than others. Also, you don’t simply dismiss – or accept – some evidence just because you can find an expert who supports that view; you typically try to get the views of a sufficiently large group of experts, like – oh, I don’t know – maybe the IPCC?
I’ll finish with a final comment. Richard Betts wrote a guest post here called label the behaviour, not the person. I agree with that general sentiment; discussing a particular viewpoint, or behaviour, is vastly different to labelling some specific individual. However, as Brigitte Nerlich points out, Lukewarmer appears to be a self-label, rather than a label generated by others. This makes it slightly tricky. It’s one thing to label others in a manner that they might find objectionable, but another to use one that they themselves have developed. The current objection seems to be that some – like me – are defining it incorrectly, but I’m still having trouble seeing how, as everything I read seems broadly consistent with my understanding of the general position.
Anyway, I’ll simply reiterate the point I was trying to make here, and which I think Roger Pielke Jr was getting at; we don’t get to choose our own evidence, and defining yourself according to some subset of the evidence is a poor way to ensure robust policy making. One might even argue that the attempt to develop a self-label is inherently political and divisive.