Global Warming: Lukewarmers, Consensus, and Personal Attacks

I am not a climate scientists, but like many others I have a position on global warming.  My position is that of a lukewarmer.  I believe that significant increases in carbon dioxide lead to increases in temperature.  I just don’t believe those increases in carbon dioxide lead to the dangerous amount of global warming that most global warming alarmists assert.  In other words, emissions of carbon dioxide lead to some global warming, just not dangerous amounts of such warming.

The main reason for my belief is that the alarmist argument does not rest simply on carbon dioxide leading to increases in warming.  Instead, the degree of warming asserted by alarmists involves much larger secondary effects – secondary effects, such as the claim that the initial degree of warming from carbon dioxide leads to additional warming from things like increased water vapor.  While the scientific case for the claim that carbon dioxide increases temperatures is strong, the scientific case for the much larger secondary effects is, to put it mildly, much weaker.

For an excellent discussion of the Lukewarmer position and for a variety of interesting aspects of the global warming debate, see this podcast with Matt Ridley at Econtalk, one of our sister sites.  

One of the principal arguments made against people who are skeptical about the global warming alarmism is that there is a consensus in favor of global warming.  But as Ridley points out, most often the claim for that consensus is merely that there is a consensus that carbon dioxide leads to some global warming, a position that lukewarmers do not dispute.  But let’s assume there is a consensus for the alarmist position.

A consensus is a strong argument only if it is arrived at voluntarily.  What the political movement for global warming alarmism does is to attack anyone who disputes the “consensus” position.  Moreover, climate scientists who depart from the orthodox position pay a high price in terms of their career and reputation.

These attacks undermine the credibility of the consensus.  One can’t logically argue for the importance of the consensus as a sign of truth while at the same time forging that consensus through attacks and vilification.

While one can’t logically make that argument, one can still make it politically.  The consensus argument is a strong one politically, even if it does not make sense logically.  And the political attacks are also effective, even if they undermine the credibility of the consensus.

If the political movement behind global warming alarmism wanted to persuade skeptics like me, they would stop the political attacks and at least treat respectfully, if not welcome, skeptics.  But much of that political movement doesn’t really want to persuade.  It just wants to win so it can coerce.