The Climate Hawk Pledge

On one thing David Roberts and I agree on: Grist has a sucky comment software.

Seriously, David has written what he promises to be his last post on Climate Hawks, linking in a roundup to all the approving nods he got in the blogosphere, and the tiny minority of dissenters. Woe to ThingsBreak for sharing a lonely, distant star with me.

I can’t promise this will be my last post on the topic, but I am going to make a prediction: Climate Hawks never gets off the ground (and by that I mean beyond the fantasy stage) unless journalists start using it as shorthand and/or Thomas Friedman inserts the term in three columns within a three month period. (Krugman the dove can’t get it to fly.)

There is, of course, a related Judith Curry angle to this discussion of climate hawks, courtesy of John Rennie, the former editor in chief of Scientific American. (Roberts, in his latest post, thanks Renne for expanding his “understanding of the term.”) In the second of two posts applauding the Climate Hawk coinage, Renne explains why he believes it’s a useful term:

“Climate hawk” is a statement about one’s stance on policy, not on the science.

One of the problems that has muddied climate discussions is that there has not been a simple way to separate people’s positions on the science from their positions on the appropriate policy response. Having such labels is extremely useful””arguably, essential””not only as a way of hemming in individual discussions (“Are we debating the science or the policy response?”) but also as a way of clearly pegging exactly what people stand for.

Then, after noting how Judith Curry has become a hero to skeptics for her vocal criticism of climate science, Renne suggests that Curry might be good test case for the utility of the Climate Hawks moniker:

Curry seems to have misgivings about the uncertainties in the climate science, but she agrees that we need to cut CO2 emissions and take whatever other steps are necessary to head off possible climate disasters. Indeed, if she feels a policy response is required, then it seems clear that whatever problems she has with the state of the science, they aren’t big enough to negate that conclusion.

Understanding this much about her position and being able to state it clearly is therefore huge in policy discussions that invoke her name. If Curry identified herself as a climate hawk (a purely hypothetical possibility at this point), then her usefulness to those who would cite her to undermine proposals to cut CO2 emissions plummets. She could also probably make peace with many of her scientific colleagues who think she is willing to be a pawn of the climate denialists. On the other hand, if she doesn’t want to call herself a climate hawk, it clearly opens up a discussion about why.

If Renne is correct, then it stands to reason that Judith can put an end to the cold war between herself and many of her esteemed members of the climate science fraternity by simply taking the pledge: I am a climate hawk.

And if she refuses, well..either way, I’m sure some interesting discussion will ensue.

I’ll follow up with an email to Judith after I post this and see if she would like to take the pledge.

UPDATE: Curry declines.

37 Responses to “The Climate Hawk Pledge”

  1. Judith Curry says:

    I am currently distracted from continuing my uncertainty thread over at Climate Etc. by preparing a response to the Scientific American article.  The next installments in the series (will have to wait until next week) are about decision making under climate uncertainty.  My position on this is more nuanced than the climate hawk position, stay tuned. So the answer is no, I am not going to sign up to be a climate hawk.

  2. Tom Fuller says:

    Not that anyone should care about my position, but as a Lukewarmer who strongly advocates early (if more moderate than Hawks would like) action for both mitigation and adaptation, I could never be a hawk.
     
    The reason is fairly simple–the idea of hawkishness as put forward seems to center on the insistence of climate policy as the top item on the policy agenda, or at least something like primus inter pares.
     
    I believe that climate policy needs to learn how to play well with others and accommodate other agenda items, such as poverty (including energy poverty), disease (including malaria) and education (including about the environment).

  3. PDA says:

    the idea of hawkishness as put forward seems to center on the insistence of climate policy as the top item on the policy agenda
     
    “Seems” how?
    All I see is “people who care about climate change and clean energy” in the initial post and a reference in the subsequent “that the risks of climate change are sufficient to warrant a robust response.”

  4. Tom Fuller says:

    PDA, do you think my inference is wrong? Do you think those campaigning for immediate and robust action would share the policy agenda?
     
    I used ‘seem’ because there wasn’t specific language about it. I might be wrong–but I’d have to be convinced.

  5. PDA says:

    Do you think those campaigning for immediate and robust action would share the policy agenda?
     
    I’m not sure what you mean by “share the policy agenda” or primum inter pares. If your inference is that Roberts means “climate hawks” should explicitly or implicitly advocate positions other than “that the risks of climate change are sufficient to warrant a robust response,” then yes, I think it’s wrong, or at least unsupported in the post.

  6. While I am surely a “hawk” by Roberts’ standards, I find the nomenclature (the specific analogy to belligerence and war) repulsive. I hope this doesn’t become yet another bit of misleading nomenclature as “global warming” has.
     

  7. Jay Currie says:

    I find it difficult to imagine how one might find the uncertainties in the science troubling yet still advocate a substantial policy response directed toward reducing CO2 emissions.
    Isn’t this pretty much the definition of bad faith?
    In fact, in the absence of engineering level proof that CO2, and only CO2 is responsible for such warming as there has actually been observed, policy advocacy of the form “do something, there might be a problem the size of which we cannot tell you” would make such advocates climate-dodos, flightless, gullible, easily taken and, well, extinct.

  8. Keith Kloor says:

    Michael (6), don’t be such a climate coward or climate appeaser. (see lists) 🙂

  9. Tom Fuller says:

    Well, Jay, I personally believe that there are very large uncertainties in attribution of warming to CO2 as opposed to other anthropogenic actions. I also believe there are very large uncertainties wrt atmospheric sensitivities to a doubling of concentrations of CO2. Ask Michael Tobis above about my uncertainties about uncertainties.
     
    And yet some combination of forces have caused warming at an increased rate since 1975. It isn’t idiotic to think that a tripling of the population,  concomitant deforestation and a rise in the number of automobiles from 5 million in 1945 to 800 million today might just possibly have been part of the reason why.
     
    In any event, our future needs for both energy and an environment clean enough for 9 billion people make it prudent to act directly and, well, energetically in ways that insure that our children (not our grandchildren or great-grandchildren) have a nice planet to live on.
     
    I happen to think in the short term that fighting black soot and deforestation might be more effective than top-down emission caps. I also happen to think that combined heat and power and waste to energy might save more joules for the future than wind farms.
     
    But, perhaps because I look at climate whatever within the context of a larger policy agenda, I still advocate action but am willing to be flexible on the exact form that action should take.

  10. Keith Kloor says:

    Hey, I just realized I’m a climate curmudgeon.

  11. TerryMN says:

    MT@6:  “I hope this doesn’t become yet another bit of misleading nomenclature as “global warming” has.”
    How is that misleading?  Are you implying that the globe is not warming?

  12. Keith Kloor says:

    Well, David Roberts breaks his own pledge, but it’s for clarification purposes.

  13. Shub says:

    Lemonick writes:
    “…the plausible worst-case could be catastrophic”.
     
    He has unknowingly let the cat out of the bag – its game over now.

  14. Roddy Campbell says:

    Keith – this is VERY confusing.

    A  I still don’t understand what a climate hawk is?  Is it someone who believes we should be prepared to spend/forego x% of gdp in order to replace cheap CO2 energy sources with more expensive non-CO2 ones, which would at least be a simple definition, and the higher x is the more hawkish you are?  (And the more you think others should spend the x% the more hypocritical yopu are, but that’s another story 🙂 ).

    (In which case it will NOT include all the other groups that you/Laura hope will come into its Big Tent.)

    B  Why on earth would anyone think Curry should opine on POLICY, let alone take a stupid pledge?  Mystifying. She would be the last person who would think herself capable of that.  She seems to always take a strict line of opining on the science, leaving policy response to others.  As it should be unless you’re working in harness on geo-engineering etc.

  15. Roddy Campbell says:

    I retract my (irrelevant) one-sentence middle paragraph ….. it might well include those groups.

  16. Roddy Campbell says:

    From Judy’s post today, a little excerpt perhaps indicating that she feels she is a scientist, not a policy-tician, and also perhaps indicating that others should feel that way too.
    What happened?  Did the skeptics and the oil companies and the libertarian think tanks win?  No, you lost.  All in the name of supporting policies that I don’t think many of you fully understand.  What I want is for the climate science community to shift gears and get back to doing science, and return to an environment where debate over the science is the spice of academic life. And because of the high relevance of our field, we need to figure out how to provide the best possible scientific information and assessment of uncertainties.
     

  17. Roddy Campbell says:

    Apologies for repeated posts but here’s Romm’s definition, about what I had:
    “I don’t think “climate hawk” applies to my view of climate science, but rather my view of climate and energy policy.  …….. Now one of the main points of ClimateProgress is that a full understanding of what climate science says pretty much tells you what the policy approach needs to be “” very “˜hawkish’ “” which is to say deploy every last bit of low-carbon technology we have today as fast as is humanly possible, to lower emissions (and bring them down the experience curve) as fast as possible, while also aggressively pursuing more R&D, in an effort to stay as far below 450 ppm as is possible, or, failing that, to go as little above 450 ppm for as short a time period as possible. Failure to hawkishly deploy fast and hard risks triggering the carbon cycle amplifying feedbacks that are poised to take us to 700 to 1000 ppm this century, which would lead with high likelihood to multiple, incalculably-destructive catastrophes……”

  18. PDA says:

    Keith ““ this is VERY confusing. I still don’t understand what a climate hawk is
     
    It’s not at all confusing or mystifying. Actually reading is a wonderful way of obtaining information.
    Roberts’s initial post is about an alternative to the term “people who care about climate change and clean energy. His subsequent post expresses the view of such people “that the risks of climate change are sufficient to warrant a robust response.”
    It is certainly possible that Dr. Curry has no opinion about policy. I think that a vanishingly unlikely possibility, though, and I think everyone prefers open agendas (well, with the possible exception of our host w/r/t Joe Romm) to hidden ones.

  19. Roddy Campbell says:

    Don’t get stressy, I did read those posts.  It would appear a climate hawk is someone who wants to replace CO2 energy sources with non-CO2 energy sources, for whatever reason, is that right?  But how would you measure how ‘hawkish’ they were?  Presumably by how much, measured as a % of gdp, they were prepared to spend doing this per annum?

    Why is it a ‘vanishingly unlikely possibility’ that Curry has no (material or worthy of interest) opinion on policy?  In some senses policy is far more complicated than the science, especially since having a useful view requires an understanding of international politics as well as megawatts per ounce of thorium or per windmill, concepts of grid stress, and so on.  I doubt she’s had the time to read up on this stuff, what with her hurricane work.

    Her ‘agenda’ I think is set out in her post today – try reading it?

  20. Roddy Campbell says:

    Personally I think policy is the most interesting, and complicated, part of the whole equation.  If you take some basic IPCC scenarios you are still left with:
    a) calculating impacts over long periods of time
    b) calculating who wins and who loses
    c) assessing GDP growth rates and adaptation costs on a business-as-usual basis
    d) hypothesising a policy response that might, just might, be agreed by all major population and emitting blocs (NA, SA, EU, China, Russia, India, SA) while recognising the emergers want, and are entitled to, some of what we’ve got.
    e) costing it, calculating its impact on CO2 over decades, observing and costing its impact on impacts, again over a multi-decadal timescale
     
    and so on, and so on.  Simplistic cap-and-trade, trivial ineffective carbon taxes, passing laws – none of these work, and the point of policy is for it to work.
     
    So I think it, in general, ‘vanishingly unlikely’ that most people have a view on policy (worth articulating, let alone listening to).  It’s far too complicated.
     

  21. willard says:

    >  [H]ow would you measure how “˜hawkish’ they were?
     
    If someone knows that answer to that question, it would be interesting to measure how “lukewarmish” any lukewarmer is.
     
    That hints at an important linguistic discovery: when someone knows what a term means, it becomes a mass term.

  22. willard says:

    > It becomes a mass term.
    Hmmm.  A “gradable adjective”, perhaps?

  23. PDA says:

    So I think it, in general, “˜vanishingly unlikely’ that most people have a view on policy (worth articulating, let alone listening to).  It’s far too complicated.
     
    I agree. Similarly, issues such as gun control, health care, taxation and education are extremely complex. It’s probably better that we not think about things, let alone talk about them, and leave the hard work of decision-making to our leaders.

  24. Roddy Campbell says:

    Correct, most people don’t have a view on those things worth articulating let alone listening to.  They vote on them, in a package, via a democratic system.
    I’m still curious why you think a hurricane scientist would a) have a view on AGW policy response options, and b) have a view worth articulating.  Especially when they say they don’t really.  Do you think all climate scientists, in any area of the field, must have these views?
    For clarity, I don’t include as a view ‘something must be done or we will fry/drown.’
    I have to steal from Johnson again: ‘Sir, a climate scientist advocating policy response is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”

  25. Roddy Campbell says:

    Willard – how lukewarm a lukewarmer is surely?
    I think the answer would be the same?  What % of global gdp they would be prepared to spend/forego to mitigate, and how that should be split?  The hawkest of hawkish hawks would asymptotically approach unilateral action on a large scale.
     

  26. PDA says:

    I’m still curious why you think a hurricane scientist would a) have a view on AGW policy response options, and b) have a view worth articulating.
     
    I don’t understand why I have to stipulate to your question, when I never posited (a) or (b). As Roberts said – in passages which I quoted twice – the so-called “climate hawks” would claim only that “that the risks of climate change are sufficient to warrant a robust response,” not any specific minutiae about emissions targets or geopolitics.
    My assertion is that the overwhelming majority of people – especially those who are working in a related field – have a position on this proposition. To pretend one does not is disingenuous at best.
     
    Especially when they say they don’t really.
     
    Dr. Curry said “My position on this is more nuanced than the climate hawk position, stay tuned.” So not only does she say she does “really” have a position, she also says it is nuanced: in other words, something she has thought a great deal about.
     

  27. Ed Forbes says:

    “The Climate Hawk Pledge” ?

    “Chicken Little” may be more descriptive. 🙂

  28. willard says:

    Roddy Campbell,
     
    Talking about this kind of epithet like it needs to be a gradable adjective makes no sense.

  29. Roddy Campbell says:

    PDA – I must have misunderstood you when you said:
    ‘It is certainly possible that Dr. Curry has no opinion about policy. I think that a vanishingly unlikely possibility, though.’
    Apologies if so.
    If a climate hawk  ‘would claim only “that the risks of climate change are sufficient to warrant a robust response,” not any specific minutiae about emissions targets…’ then he’s not a climate hawk who has thought very much about it, imho.
    Romm, to his credit, has put some numbers on it ‘in an effort to stay as far below 450 ppm as is possible, or, failing that, to go as little above 450 ppm for as short a time period as possible …’.
    Otherwise, using your examples above, it’s no more interesting or useful than sayingL
    – ‘gun crime is so severe that robust gun control is needed’
    – health care for the poor is so bad a robust response is needed’
    – education is so important for skills that a robust policy is needed
     
    It just doesn’t mean very much.  Sorry.  So if your assertion that ‘…. the overwhelming majority of people ““ especially those who are working in a related field ““ have a position on this proposition.’ – only means that they think that a ‘robust response’ is merited, but preferably one with no numbers attached, indeed barely thought out at all, then that doesn’t mean much either.  I’m against gun crime by the way.  That’s my policy.  Less gun crime.
     

  30. RB says:

    Whether or not supply-side economics is a success is itself fiercely debated by economists.  Mankiw himself calls Reaganites “charlatans and cranks” for implementation of said policy. Cap-and-trade is only a subset of the larger taxation issue and one can hardly offer any proof of its long-term effects, although opinions are quite strong.
     
     
     

  31. PDA says:

    Roddy, to extend the analogy, the current debate is on whether gun crime exists at all. Furthermore, it includes the proposition that gun crime, if it even exists, may in fact be a good thing, as well as the idea that crime has been around forever, and so attempting to control it would be an act of hubris.
     
    So yeah, I think that even the position “a robust response is merited” does mean quite a lot. It’s not anywhere near enough on its own, it’d just be a major step forward.

  32. Roddy Campbell says:

    No, that’s not really the debate.  Broadly speaking the disparate groups who might unite under the Climate Hawk banner want clean energy (which results in mitigation) – that’s the premise.  Some of them might be pure oil spill merchants who don’t believe in AGW, true, but hardly any.  Some of them might, perfectly legitimately, have questions about WG2, I know I do.  But to say that getting self-defined climate hawks to agreed that ‘a robust response is merited’ would be a step forward is a bit (choose your own adjective here).  I think these people are broadly agreed that gun crime exists and is harmful, to use your analogy.

    BUT knowing about the existence and likely effects of gun crime is one thing, having a policy position a step or two above ‘something must be done’ is more difficult.  My position was and is that policy is extremely complicated, and I would be surprised if many climate scientists had intelligent opinions on how to set about mitigation (for that is the policy response, one way or another).  How many climate scientists have you read expressing thoughtful opinions on cap and trade, or carbon taxes, or wind, or solar, or nuclear?  I’ve not seen many, and Michael Mann’s opinion, or Judy Curry’s, is of little interest to me.  There is no need for Curry to have a ‘policy’ opinion – you felt she was bound to, after all everyone does, don’t they?.  But I was defining having a policy opinion as a rather more thoughtful and weighty position than simply agreeing with the above proposition – ‘something must be done’.
    So, in extremis, you could have everyone in the USA agreeing with your proposition, but no joined-up thought-out policy as to what to do exactly.  What constitutes ‘a robust response?’  It ain’t easy stuff.
    Here’s a blog post on India, currently fifth in the world CO2 league tables, and presumably heading for a top three position soon.  What policy would you like them to adopt?  It will be as/more important than the US policy.
    http://ecocentric.blogs.time.com/2010/10/26/climate-india-is-still-a-long-way-from-cutting-carbon/
     

  33. PDA says:

    We’re talking way, way past each other.
    I never said anything about getting “self-described climate hawks” to agree on anything, and I can’t imagine what I wrote to give you such an impression. The context of my comments were in response to Rennie’s statements about the utility of being able to distinguish  policy discussions from science discussions, and establishing a given writer’s perspective more clearly.
     
    Your questions and statements about the complexity of policy response are interesting and of great merit. They are also about a million miles away from any point I was trying to make.

  34. ‘Hawk’ is discredited rhetoric to ‘liberals’ but they can learn to take it, as they have so much else.  It’s not discredited to ‘independents’.  And it has knee-jerk emotional resonance for ‘conservatives’.    I don’t see a lose here.

  35. PDA,
    sometimes I really have to wonder if the entirety of Roddy-like, ostensibly policy-centric commentary, doesn’t boil down to ‘don’t even think of taking away my guns’.

  36. Jay Currie says:

    Ed, @27, wins the thread.

  37. Roddy Campbell says:

    SS – what do you mean ‘ostensibly’, and ‘don’t take away my guns’ – I really don’t understand?  Policy is what interests me – if we accept 2c rise over 100 years is ‘probable’, what would ‘our’ policy response be?  Surely that’s what all this is about?
    And, as in #32, what would India’s policy response be?
    Isn’t that what matters here?
    Isn’t that what the post was about – forming a new coalition to press for non=CO2 energy, the old (Copenhagen/Obama/IPCC) methods having led, so far, to nothing material in terms of policy.
    So what does this coalition of climate hawks want?  A coalition needs a manifesto, some policies.  What are they?
     

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