The ‘Reasonable Middle’ on Climate Change

Where’s the balance between alarmism and skepticism?


I had a Twitter conversation yesterday with Jonathan Foley (@GlobalEcoGuy), a climate scientist who directs the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, that I’d like to follow up on. These aren’t exactly the most focused thoughts I’ve ever had, so bear with me for a bit of a ramble.

I don’t know how to resurrect Twitter threads, but Foley, who’s a good sport, allowed me to pester him about, among other things, what it means to be in the “reasonable middle” on climate change. (He sent me a-pestering with this innocent tweet, which links to his short essay on “becoming a climate pragmatist,” containing good common sense with which I largely agree.) The dispute, as ever, is over “alarmism.” Here’s how Foley describes his message on climate:

I don’t say “it won’t be that bad” — I say that “it won’t be as bad / good as climate hawks / skeptics say”.

This is a very common way of putting things in the climate-o-sphere: “Some people underplay the problem; some people overplay the problem; I play it down the center, just the straight facts. I am not on a side. I am in the reasonable middle.”

I’d note two things about this message.

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