2011-03-24 13:48:25Lukewarm Logic


I'm kinda new here so I don't know how much discussion has gone on here about Lukewarmism so I'll start a thread to find out.  I'm still unable to find a real definition or scientific explanation or understand the logic behind it.  There's no logical thread in the blogsphere I can point to that describes it from a first person point of view, but if you have no idea what I am talking about, check out these 2 posts by the idiot tracker trying to figure it out.





The reason it is important is that it turns out that SkS, or something like it, has been very successful at ridding the world of a large amount of crazy denialism and now there is a solid core of skeptics who are filling that void left behind and calling themselves reasonable.  I mean people like Steve Mosher, McIntyre, Curry, Lucia of Blackboard, Tom Fuller, etc. I think even Watts tries this tag.  They don't fit into the "sensitivity is low" or "we don't know anything" types, but something more like, "sensitivity is not high" or "what we know isn't convincing enough".  It is denial 2.0.  It even has a catchy name.  Is it honest?  Or perhaps it's just the slow evolution toward being realisitic about science.


What do people know about this position?

2011-03-24 14:35:26


Another thread I just remembered participating, but forgot about and it went on and on for a while.  Mosher is there and the best explanation he can give is a cherry-picking, illogical rant.

There are a group of people who accept the core science who tend to believe that we will see from 1.5C to 3C per doubling. Hardly anti science. Hardly denialist. Some of us also believe that immediate action is required. Hardly obstructionist.
what’s our thought crime?


On sensitivity, at Lucia’s I published the range of numbers that cover lukewarmerism and the scientific reasons for believing that the number will be in the lower half of the IPCC range. As someone point out my favorite GCM ( ModelE) is actually a Lukewarmer. Go figure. Now you want US to agree on one number.That’s stupid. You all dont agree on one number, in fact one number would be wrong.

So lukers just select parts of the science that they like without explanation?  I need to develope this.  Model-e is a lukewarmer?  What?

2011-03-24 16:09:18lukewarmers
Dana Nuccitelli

Good posts you linked to there, grypo.

My take on lukewarmers is that they're fundamentally no different than deniers, except that they're cleverer.  I think that fundamentally, they're all 'delayers', making whatever arguments they can do delay action on reducing carbon emissions.  Deniers just throw everything they can at it.  Lukewarmers are more focused, just saying there's too much uncertainty and it's probably nothing to worry about.

It's funny to see them throw Monckton to the wolves, because while he's a major Gish Galloper, his main argument is 'sensitivity is low', just like them.  But I think they know if they criticize him, it makes them seem more reasonable.

Ultimately though, there's really no reason to believe sensitivity is low.  Even though there's a pretty big range of potential values, there's about a 90% chance it's above 1.5°C for 2xCO2, which means we need serious emissions reductions.  Even if a lukewarmer believes the value is 1.5°C, as your articles noted, they still have to admit there's a significant probability the value is higher, in which case we need major emissions reductions.

I just see 'lukewarmers' as another way for deniers to try and justify delaying carbon emissions cuts.

2011-03-24 20:35:48Denial 2.0
John Cook

I like that phrase, denial 2.0 :-)

lukewarmism is an important topic that we've never covered here. Those blog posts are great. I see Muller as trying to position himself as "non-partisan", a middle ground lukewarmer, evening "alarmist cherry picking" and misinformation all the while peddling his own misinformation, cherry picking and slandering climate scientists. And now he's trying to use BEST to position himself as an authority on climate science, while never having done any actual climate science. That's what makes him so dangerous. People like Muller and Judith Curry are like the academic versions of concern trolls.

2011-03-24 22:49:10
Ari Jokimäki


What does the word "lukewarmer" mean?

2011-03-24 23:29:36


I think Muller will be amenable to reason, especially after publication of BEST.

Curry: Not so much. She's walked into her odd version of no-man's-land with her eyes open. Prediction: She's on her way out.

2011-03-24 23:41:07



One of the problems is that it is difficult to define, this is likely on purpose.  The best I can come up with is what Mosher said.


"people who accept the core science who tend to believe that we will see from 1.5C to 3C per doubling."


There is no scientific explanation or logic, but it has caught on over the last year or so, as the "reasonable" skeptic position.

2011-03-24 23:46:43
Mark Richardson

It is possible that the warming will be on the low end of the IPCC range. That's why it's in the IPCC range.

In fact, my gut feeling leans towards 2-3 C per CO2 doubling from what I've read, provided we don't hit a tipping point. Most observational estimates tend to fall in that range and I guess that makes me a 'lukewarmer' (although I accept there is very limited evidence that sensitivity is significantly smaller and there is some good evidence for it eventually being higher)




That's still 4-6+ C global warming under 'business as usual' though, which is almost unthinkable.

2011-03-25 02:32:43sensitivity
Dana Nuccitelli

Mark - I agree, I think the short-term sensitivity is probably a bit below 3°C.  But a "lukewarmer" is both convinced sensitivity is close to 1.5°C, and thinks there's no rush to reduce GHG emissions.  That second belief is key.  I think "lukewarmers" also must believe that in the ballpark of 3°C warming above pre-industrial is nothing much to worry about.  Otherwise their nonchalance just doesn't add up.

The key to being a "lukewarmer" is this nonchalance, in my opinion.  If you believe sensitivity is between 1.5 and 3°C, you shouldn't be nonchalant, you should be pushing for rapid GHG emissions reductions.  Unless you somehow argue that 'warmer is better' and the 2°C 'danger limit' isn't dangerous at all.  Idiot Tracker made this point in grypo's first link above.

2011-03-25 04:28:02


Okay, I think Dana is close to being correct.  I have more research now, and I think I’ve figured out the important parts.   First, yes it is Mosher who uses the term, and many people have glommed onto it, likely not realizing what they are agreeing to.  So if ModelE is a lukewarmer, then it appears they believe climate sensitivity is 2.7 (how this became so important, I have no idea).  This astonished me a bit, because as Mark and Dana say,  that should call for emissions cuts, much more than anything I’ve heard any luke warmers call for.  So where is the disconnect?  It is either 1 of 2 things, either they don’t think that much warming will cause much harm to the humans or the Earth, or ethics.  So then I remembered mosher showing up at Micheal Tobis’ blog a while back.  Let me point out a few things that Mosher said there.  It's not in sequesce but you'll get the general idea


You can google intergeneration justice for starters and see the rich set of positions on our obligations to future generations, discounts usually apply for those systems where ethical decisions have a cost benefit component, or even I think I could argue, in a rawlsian egalitarian approach.

And somebody who argues that I have ethical obligations to the humans of 2300, is as strange to me as someone who argues that a mother has ethical obligations to a clump of cells growing in her uterus.Or somebody who argues that infanticide is ok ( See singer)

So, while I think we do have ethical obligations to humans living now, I think those obligations carry more weight than my obligations to those living in 2100, and they have more weight than those living in 2300, and I have no obligation to those who may be alive when the sun burns out. Which means I have no obligation to bear the cost of finding those creatures a new planet to live on.  I have no obligation to the humans who will be living in the US when Yellowstone blows. So, I would expend no money to try to prevent or adapt to that disaster.

However, if I were to accept your moral intuition, I would probably make the case that the most salient aspect of my lifetime opportunity that I would owe future generations is the ability to live and work in society with low taxes. (Since I don't eat fish, I'm not so sure I owe the exact same fishery to the future

If you look at the SRES for AR4 you will find that A1F1 is hot world. It also happens to be a wealthy world. If you look at the cool worlds, they happen to be poor worlds. So, given the choice between Cold, dry, poor, and controlled by governments.. and hot, wet, rich and free. I'll choose to pass the hot wet rich and free future down. 

I don't think you are unethical to have a different value system than I have. That's known as tolerance. Tolerance for people with different value systems is a thing I would like to pass down to future generations. And given the right environment I bet we could reason together about a series of actions we would both agree to. No regret actions. However, since the debate has been framed in a manner such that.

1. any disagreement with the science is taken as "denialism"

2. Any discussion of no regret actions is taken as "evil" delayers

It's hard to even begin. That said I do think there are areas where people with different views of the science and different views of values, can find common ground.

So this, like always seems to happen, is another ethical position.  The logic is only there when you see the ethical decisions involved. It still seems to disregard the upper limits of the sensitivity range, especially the long term ESS, but looking at the ethics involved, it appears that wouldn't really matter.  Ironically, that hot/rich cool/poor world comparison was done in Indur M. Goklany's CATO paper that I used in my Libertarian thread to show that libertarian arguments aren't actually libertarian.  






2011-03-25 04:47:13



- Values aside, a fatal problem with Mosher's point of view is that there's no reason to believe that a hot world will be richer. We can expect plenty of problems.

- I've finally figured out why the argument that "libertarians should be jumping all over trying to compensate AGW losers" fails to inspire libertarians: libertarian justifications make sense in the context that the parties dealing with each other have equivalent power (roughly measured by the number of guns). When the parties are not equally strong, there is no question of who decides what happens, and to whose benefit. You do not hear about libertarians wanting to compensate the American Indians for anything; it's not even a concept. Everything boils down to force, with them; that's why they refer to taxation as ultimately an act of violence, because if you refuse to give in, the government will escalate and finally enforce the law with guns.

So you're not going to get anywhere with libertarians with that libertarian thread. You might get somewhere with insurance companies.

2011-03-25 05:25:13hot, rich
Dana Nuccitelli

Mosher is confused.  It's true that A1F1 has rapid economic growth, but so does Scenario B1.  It's just that B1 shifts away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy.  And Mosher is of course ignoring the consequences climate change will have on the global economy.

But like I said, it's all about finding a way to justify opposing carbon emissions cuts.  Mosher's justification is basically "I don't care about future generations".  As you say grypo, it's a moral stance, not a scientific one.

2011-03-25 09:11:23
Julian Brimelow

Maybe, without mentioning the narcissist Mosher, SkS could do a post on the muddled "lukewarmers"?

IMHO, Dana has hit the nail on the head.

PS:  Mosher is, in my opinion, very dangerous and disingenuous-- he is certainly not your ordinary AGW denying fool.  So maybe it is time to blast this misleading "lukewarmer" position out of the water, but again, do not give him the attention that he craves.

2011-03-25 09:47:33post
Dana Nuccitelli

The difficulty with doing a post on the subject is that it's very hard to nail down exactly what a "lukewarmer" is.  Mosher has given us an example, but if we don't respond directly to him (and I agree, we probably shouldn't), then how do we define the term?  I bet no two "lukewarmers" are alike.

2011-03-25 09:54:29


Yes, it's impossible at this point.  Tom Fuller also uses the word a lot but his views are much more thoroghly confusing then Mosher's.  Otherwise it's just a bunch of people who like the name and are likely just learned that greenhouse has to be real, to their dismay.

2011-03-25 10:11:29
Dana Nuccitelli

Agree with grypo, I think "lukewarmer" is basically just a catch-all term for anybody who's not a rabid denier but still isn't willing to take action to reduce GHG emissions.  They may just be creating a new label because they think "skeptic" is getting a bad name, and "lukewarmer" makes them sound reasonable.  But just like there's a wide range of "skeptic" beliefs, I'm sure there's a wide range of "lukewarmers" too.

2011-03-25 11:12:52


Another take on lukewarmism: Looking at stages of AGW denial:

- Stage 1 of denial: "Global warming isn't happening."

- Stage 2 of denial: "Global warming is happening, but it's not due to human activity."

- Stage 3 of denial: "Global warming is due to human activity, but it won't be that bad."

- Stage 4 of denial: "Global warming will be bad, but it's too expensive to do anything about it."

- Stage 5 of denial: "Global warming is bad, but it's too late to do anything about it."

Lukewarmism is the same as Stage 3.

This perspective gives me the feeling we should concentrate on the Stage 1 & 2 people for awhile more, lest we scare the Stage 3 people back to Stages 1 or 2. Particularly since we expect the BEST study to put the nail in the coffin for Stage 1 anyway.