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04/19/2016 12:16 pm ET Updated Apr 20, 2017

The Classifications of Climate Change Thinkers

How many climate change denialists are there in the US? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Richard Muller, Professor Physics, UC Berkeley, author Now, The Physics of Time , on Quora.

The number of climate change deniers in the US depends on what you mean by "denier". I, for example, am not only convinced that global warming is real, and caused by humans, but I can make a compelling case that it is so, and I spend a substantial part of my time talking to those who don't accept that. I don't publicize the list of people I have convinced, but you would likely recognize some of the names.

On the other hand, I might be listed as a "climate change denier" because I also can show that hurricanes are not increasing (as many alarmists claim), neither are tornados, and droughts and floods are not becoming more common.

So how do you classify me? A climate change denier? A global warming believer? In my book, "Energy for Future Presidents" (pig 74) I give the following categories:

Alarmists. They pay little attention to the details of the science. They are "unconvincibles." They say the danger is imminent, so scare tactics are both necessary and appropriate, especially to counter the deniers. They implicitly assume that all global warming and human-caused global warming are identical.

Exaggerators. They know the science but exaggerate for the public good. They feel the public doesn't find an 0.64°C change threatening, so they have to cherry-pick and distort a little--for a good cause.

Warmists. These people stick to the science. They may not know the answer to every complaint of the skeptics, but they have grown to trust the scientists who work on the issues. They are convinced the danger is serious and imminent.

Lukewarmists. They, too, stick to the science. They recognize there is a danger but feel it is uncertain. We should do something, but it can be measured. We have time.

Skeptics. They know the science but are bothered by the exaggerators, and they point to serious flaws in the theory and data analysis. They get annoyed when the warmists ignore their complaints, many of which are valid. This group includes auditors, scientists who carefully check the analysis of others.

Deniers.They pay little attention to the details of the science. They are "unconvincibles." They consider the alarmists' proposals dangerous threats to our economy, so exaggerations are both necessary and appropriate to counter them.

I am probably closest to being a "lukewarmist". So would I be placed in the category of denier?

Should the alarmist and the exaggerators be listed as "deniers" since they don't accept the basic conclusions of the IPCC?  (They think the IPCC understates the conclusions.)

This all illustrates why people who give statistics on the number of deniers are often  giving misleading conclusions.

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