Not being a climate skeptic myself, I'm not that interested in spending a lot of time trying to disprove the consensus, and much more interested in maintaining an atmosphere where questioning the consensus isn't met with bullying, name-calling, mind-reading, or immediate dismissal as a nutcase. Good science is not served by an atmosphere of intimidation. Of course, openness as a principle still has to be exercised on a case-by-case basis and some anti-consensus arguments may be so clearly wacko they don't merit serious attention. Others are more interesting and may be worth some initial consideration (for me those would include certain assumptions that go into some climate change models, especially re: demographics or socio-economic-technolog­ical trends). But this whole "what side on you on?" way of thinking makes it hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. The science of climate change involves a myriad of research questions, each of which can generate a myriad of hypotheses, generating a range of predictions spanning a continuum of possibilities. Turning climate change into an Us versus Them issue can have a chilling effect on the field if researchers choose not to pursue certain lines of questioning out of fear of being classified as one of Them.

I suspect the strong feelings evoked by the climate change debate have a lot to do with the assumption that one can't be a skeptic and also be an advocate for policies that would promote climate change mitigation and adaptation. This is not necessarily the case. It's quite possible to be an ardent environmentalist and harbor some doubts about the climate change consensus. There are many reasons to want to reduce CO2 emissions, the specter of global warming being just one. However, the tendency to group people into camps can become a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, as individuals expelled from "respectable" circles seek support elsewhere and that support will partly come from people with their own, quite different, agendas.

Find common ground when possible. Agreement on all points is not needed. There are lots of reasons to reduce CO2 emissions – the specter of global warming being one of them. Way back in the 1970s, the initial push to reduce emissions and lower consumption of petroleum products had nothing to do with fears about climate change and much to do about reducing pollution and conserving nonrenewable resources. Approach skeptics not as knaves or fools but as fellow problem-solvers. Of course, keep climate change as part of the conversation – while acknowledging that reading the future is fraught with uncertainty – but don’t insist on embracing the consensus as a precondition of working together on environmental initiatives.