I’m not an environmentalist, but I am a climate hawk*

My Grist colleague Dave Roberts has a must-read post, “Introducing ‘climate hawks’.”  I’ll reprint it below and then offer some comments.  And I am quite interested to hear what you have to say on his idea:

On Monday I asked, “What should we call people who care about climate change and clean energy?” A fantastic discussion ensued, up to 226 comments and counting — thanks to everybody who weighed in, not only on the site, but on Facebook, Twitter, email, and “words spoken in my physical presence” (kids, ask your parents!).

As the logorrheic post below will attest, I’ve read all your feedback and given the matter quite a bit of thought. At long last I’ve settled on something I’m happy with, though of course I’m just Some Blogger and who cares what I think.

Without further ado, the winner is … [drumroll] …Climate hawks.

Think on it a moment. Let it sink in. Roll it around on your tongue. Now, let’s discuss.

A lot of people seemed to mistake the nature of the undertaking. The point is not, emphatically not, to “rebrand environmentalism.” Please kill me if I ever have to listen to another discussion about rebranding environmentalism. The point is not that environmentalists need something new to call themselves, but that the class of climate hawks is not coextensive with the class of environmentalists. They are not the same group. In a Venn diagram, there would be substantial overlap but also substantial … underlap? nonlap? disjoint? Point is, there are plenty of people who understand climate change and support clean energy but do not share the rest of the ideological and sociocultural commitments that define environmentalism as historically understood in the U.S. (Which is fine!)

Anyway, the main goal of the exercise was description, not marketing or “framing” or whatever. This set of people already exists. I just need something to call them!

A few quick notes about proposals I didn’t choose.

First, the term needs to be broad but shallow. That is, it needs to be broad enough to encompass everyone worried about these issues, but at the same time shallow enough that it doesn’t imply a bunch of other positions or commitments. It has to be something a business executive in Akron, Ohio, or a Navy Admiral will apply to themselves. You can’t smuggle a bunch of other stuff in; people just won’t use it.

So that pretty much rules out “planetarians” and “sustainablists” and “sky-huggers” and the like. The last thing we need is something that says, “like an environmentalist, but even more crunchy!” (It seems not to have occurred to lots of our readers that there are many Americans who don’t want to be nurturant Earth mother types.) Along the same lines, I’m somewhat fond of “transitionalist” or something else involving “transition,” but a) you’d have to stop and explain that to 99.99 percent of people, and b) once you explained that you’re talking about a ground-up re-engineering of human culture, you’re going to get a lot of, “oh, I just wanted a solar panel …”

So: broad but shallow.

Second, I’d just as soon avoid a term that has elite condescension built right in. You may have noticed that elite condescension is one thing lots of folks dislike about the left! This is why “Brights” blew up in Daniel Dennett’s face — if you call yourself Bright obviously the implication is that everyone else is dumb. Similarly, while I appreciate everyone’s wit, “sane” and “educated” and “sensible” and “realist” just won’t do. Yes, climate denialists have tried to claim “climate realists,” but to my ears they just sound defensive and pathetic. Of course whatever position you select, you think you’re right. That’s why you selected it! No need to go preening about it.

Third, if the term’s going to catch on, it has to sound natural, something an Average Jane could say in conversation and be understood without a bunch of additional explanation. This, I’m afraid, rules out most of the neologisms — “neodynamist” or “P4CE” or “energeers” or the like. It’s very, very difficult to get a brand new term like that in circulation, mainly because the first few people to try sound like total douchecanoes. Maybe a few NYT trend pieces could do it, but I’m pretty sure Grist couldn’t.

Fourth — and I didn’t get this until I read through the thread — I’d really like to avoid any “ist” or “ism.” An -ism is a tribe; an -ist is an identity. Those are substantial commitments. What’s direly needed is a way for people to be able to adopt climate and clean energy as concerns without being forced to make those additional commitments. This, I have to say, is what a lot of environmentalists don’t seem to get. Most people don’t want to be part of a tribe defined by ideological or political commitments. Environmentalism already strikes many folks as a kind of quasi-religion. We don’t want to create another -ism with similarly high barrier to entry. This, I’m sad to say, rules out “decarbonist,” which was one of my faves on purely descriptive grounds.

Now, a few things I like about “climate hawk” (which I should note was first suggested by my colleague Jon).

First and foremost, it doesn’t carry any implications about The Truth. It doesn’t say, “I’m right, you’re wrong. I’m smarter and more enlightened than you.” Instead it evokes a judgment: that the risks of climate change are sufficient to warrant a robust response. By definition, everyone must make such judgments on their own. Rather than being a Manichean choice — you get it or you’re stupid — it becomes about values, about how hard to fight and how much to sacrifice to defend America and her future. That’s the right conversation to be having.

Yes, I’m well aware that “hawk” has militaristic overtones. Trust me, when it comes to matters military I’m a DFH of the old school. But lefties shouldn’t be precious. The health of Mother Earth just doesn’t move that many people. For better or worse, more Americans respond to evocations of toughness in the face of a threat.

In foreign policy a hawk is someone who, as Donald Rumsfeld used to put it, “leans forward,” someone who’s not afraid to flex America’s considerable muscle, someone who takes a proactive attitude toward gathering dangers. Whatever you think about foreign policy, is that not the appropriate attitude to take toward the climate threat? Does it not evoke a visceral sense of both peril and resolve, the crucial missing elements in America’s climate response?

I flirted with the term “patriot” or some variant — “green patriot” or “clean energy patriot” — for many of the same reasons. Climate hawks (see, I’m getting used to using it) need to reclaim patriotism as their own instead of leaving it behind because crass nationalists burdened it with all sorts of unpleasant baggage. There’s a tradition of patriotism, responsibility, and resolve in America that is both potent and noble. Those who want to defend America’s children and grandchildren from suffering should make no apologies about the fact that they, not the reactionaries, understand what is best about America and love her the most.

Why not “clean energy hawk”? For one thing, two words are snappier than three and easier to write. For another, it’s important to keep the threat of climate change at the center of the conversation; clean energy is one way of fighting back against that threat, but there are many others. A climate hawk leans forward, wants to attack on as many fronts as possible.

This is all embedded in the term, and that’s the other advantage: the meaning is immediately clear. No explanation required. It will strike people as something they already are, not something they have to be persuaded to become. It may not appeal (as much) in other countries, but most everybody gets what it means. It is shallowly descriptive enough to capture the desired referent class, but at the same time normative enough to evoke some of the right values.

And so that’s why I’m going to start using it. Your thoughts, questions, and criticisms are welcome.

I think climate hawk is a good rhetorical phrase, since it offers a metaphor and is punchy.

I have long pointed out that I’m not an environmentalist — see “Let’s rename Earth Day.”   Not that there’s anything wrong with environmentalist.   I just don’t happen to be one.  Yes, environmentalists have screwed up their brand through flawed messaging that focuses too much on the “environment” and not enough on people, but then again just about every single part of the progressive coalition have screwed up its messaging, and I’m still a progressive.

I am a physicist by training who studied physical oceanography at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.  Since then, I’ve mostly been an energy technologist, including a 3-year stint as deputy manager and then manager of what was then the largest program in the world to work with businesses to develop and deploy clean energy and low carbon technologies.  Then I became a consultant to businesses on clean energy and carbon mitigation, and then a full-time energy/climate policy analyst and blogger.

I don’t think “climate hawk” applies to my view of climate science, but rather my view of climate and energy policy.  My view of climate science comes from having read much of the climate science literature of the last few years and having listened to many of the leading climate scientists (for a recent literature review, see “An illustrated guide to the latest climate science“).  In that respect I sometimes call myself a “climate science realist.”

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 (see links at bottom).

One also needs very aggressive mitigation to even have a plausible chance that 1) geo-engineering could contribute slightly to averting catastrophe 2) real adaptation would be possible, as opposed to misery and triage masquerading as adaptation, which is where we are headed right now (see “Real adaptation is as politically tough as real mitigation, but much more expensive and not as effective in reducing future misery“).

The overwhelming majority of people who have seriously read the recent literature  and who have talked to a large number of top climate scientists are climate hawks, whereas the vast majority of the climate doves, deniers, delayers or lukewarmers you read online or might in person have not done those two things.

So as a shorthand for that aggressive science-driven policy, I think climate hawk is fine — as long as you clearly define your terms when you use them, which I have the luxury of doing.  The asterisk in the headline is meant to refer to climate hawk as I’ve defined it here, which may be different than how Roberts defines it.  As I’ve said, in general, short phrases like that are needed when you don’t have time to explain yourself.  When you do, it’s better to explain yourself.  That’s why I’d suggest you read the comments on Grist, where Roberts spends a certain amount of time explaining himself.

The term does not, however, help me as a blogger.  I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to call, say, Bill McKibben a climate hawk unless he himself used that term, whereas I have no problem calling him a climate science realist.  I’d be interested in hearing from him and all my other readers what they think about this and whether they would want the term applied to them.

Here is a small piece of the science that makes me a climate hawk:

Comments welcome!

UPDATE:  For the record, this is most certainly a fight for the health and well being of our children and countless future generations — see Nature: “Scientists must now emphasize the science, while acknowledging that they are in a street fight.”


95 Responses to I’m not an environmentalist, but I am a climate hawk*

  1. I would be fine being identified as a climate hawk, but not as an environmentalist”as historically understood in the U.S.”

  2. Climate Hawk works for me but who are the “Climate Doves”?

  3. Welcome to the party! Let me be the first to point out that the best thing about Climate Hawk is that it accomplishes the rhetorical goal of strength which conservatives are usually so much better at than progressives.

    Thus, anyone who is not a Climate Hawk is a Climate Coward. Or a Climate Appeaser.

    Now who wants to be one of those?

  4. Russell says:

    What a shockingly awesome neologism .

    Let us know when Bill Kristol and AEI come out as Neoclimes

  5. Sasparilla says:

    Nice term, I like it, adding it to my climate related vocabulary…

    I think its a term that people on the right might (culturally) be able to tolerate / embrace with regards to this issue – and that option just hasn’t been there for the most part previously…if you believed in this stuff previously (here in the U.S.) you were part of the looney left. Now, that will still be the case for most of the GOP faithful here in the U.S., but at least we have a safe term people that lean that way might be able to swallow alot easier.

    Nice job David Roberts and his posters…

  6. Milan says:

    The only issue I see with the term is the potentially problematic military connotation of the word ‘hawk’.

    Militaries see climate change at least in part as a way to justify big weapon purchases – ‘the future may be a scary place, so we will need lots of aircraft carriers and tactical nukes.’ In reality, we need to be focusing our resources and attention on mitigation.

  7. PSU Grad says:

    “Climate hawk” is outstanding. But it also needs a logo. Not sure what it would look like.

    The word “hawk” preempts those “tough guys” out there who are more “chickenhawk” than “hawk”. The just luuuuuuuuuv everything military until someone asks them to actually serve.

    At the risk of looking totally ignorant….what does DFH mean?

  8. Patrick says:

    Some folks like to call these people (climate hawks) well informed engineers.

    Professional Engineer is also popular.

  9. Steve Bloom says:

    It’s irritating that DR had settled on a term and then faked an input process. That aside, I doubt that “climate hawk” is going to catch on, in considerable part because its applicability stops at the U.S. border. “Climate realist” has the drawback of being too easily co-optable. If a choice has to be made, “climate patriot” might be best. I could spend a few paragraphs justifying that, but for now I’ll just put out the idea.

  10. ken levenson says:

    I like it.

    Next I would suggest never using the term “climate change” again – and instead say “climate crisis”. “Change” totally underplays the quick and violent nature of what we are facing. I “change” lanes driving on the highway… however if I’ve driven off the cliff, I have a crisis on my hands.

    A climate hawk on climate change. (is still weak….)
    A climate hawk on the climate crisis. (stronger me thinks….)

  11. Wit's End says:

    I think it’s brilliant. I have been left without a word or phrase to describe “climate science realists” which is too long, or warmists, which is weird. Climate Hawks is perfect and co-opts the powerful, fierce and patriotic implications of the term, shedding the nerdy label that is such anathema to Americans.

    I’m proud to be a Climate Hawk – and an environmentalist! Now do we get a logo? How about a political party?

  12. fj2 says:

    Yes, coming across climatehawk on the twitterverse was absolutely refreshing and the potential for well-needed superhero status.


    Spidey do give him a hand.

  13. dp says:

    ‘hawk’ is also derogatory: there’s a sense in it of pursuing policy beyond productivity, toward corruption & undue punishment.

  14. Greg Gorman says:

    The frigatebird’s most famous method of obtaining food is from stealing from other birds. Consider the coal and oil industry strategy to have society bear the costs of their pollution (contaimination of rivers and oceans, distruction of corral reefs, health effects, global warming, etc.). Weither you’re a “climate denier” or “miserable adapter”, the fossil fuel economy is undeniably stealing the future of our children. Shouldn’t they be called “CLIMATE FRIGATEBIRDS”?

  15. Andy says:

    I like the phrase Climate Hawk for a number of reasons. It makes for a bigger tent, it treats climate change as a *threat*, and it makes the conversation less about the science and more about the response. I know the science is absolutely necessary and *must* inform the policy response, but the term “climate hawk” helps us move past the whole climate gate thing in the public conversation.

    @ken levenson #10 – I would say “climate crisis” feeds too easily into the “alarmism” argument. I would push for the phrasing “climate threat” which falls in line with phrasing like “terrorist threat” that is commonly used. And works well with the hawkish language.

    @PSU Grad #7 – DFH means “Dumb F****** Hippie” and is a derrogatory term for the environmentalist left.

  16. Daniel Ives says:

    I like Climate Hawk, but I agree with other commnets. Climate Dove does not compute. Personally I’d say Climate Dodos.

  17. PeterW says:

    When I think of hawks I think of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, guys that would lie to the public and Congress, practice dirty tricks and ultimately break the law, to get their war. Their actions were more about helping themselves and their corporate masters. To me the term hawk has an underhanded, self serving feel to it.

    [JR: They are neo-cons. Military hawks predate them.]

  18. fj2 says:

    And of course, the Darkside can be such a spoilsport.

  19. I can already begin to imagine the denier response to such a term:

    The term “climate hawk” lays bare the true agenda of the environmentalist movement, which is to RULE THE WORLD!!!

    You know who else was a climate hawk? H

    …OK, I’ll stop here.

    “Climate patriot” might be better, although I think the good old “climate activist” isn’t too bad either.


  20. Dave says:

    I embrace “climate hawk” as one of several identifiers for those determined to avert climate catastrophe. I agree that it will be attractive to an audience that is so far inaccessible: macho militarist tough-guys. I also like that it implies that we are one-issue voters, and it stakes out a clear piece of political terrain that can be addressed by any party, politician or policymaker.

    Who would be national figures best positioned to take up the climate hawk label and charge up the hill? How does this leave the blogosphere?

    Christopher @ #3 – Climate hawks could bring up the question of who or what are the opposing climate “doves.” But no one calls liberals “deficit doves,” so perhaps this is not a problem. (Or maybe Glenn Beck just hasn’t thought of it yet.)

    dp #12 – I don’t think it has to have a derogatory implication. It implies single-minded focus, but not irrationality, in my opinion.

  21. My first thought when I read the term “Climate hawk” was that a “hawk” is a beautiful raptor with keen eyesight and a lot of agility and grace while flying. Keen eyesight and agility are characteristics we surely need to keep those suffering from A.S.S. in check….

    A hawk (or two for that matter) in flight is a beautiful sight as these pictures of “Palemale” and his mate “Lola” from New York show:

  22. Jeff Huggins says:

    For Some Reason

    For some reason, after being on a short trip over the last 36 hours, to a funeral of a great guy, my mind was not able to go more than three paragraphs into this post. Alas, I couldn’t finish reading it. To be clear, this is NOT because I think such exercises aren’t helpful: Perhaps every question, and every answer to it, can help in some important ways: After all, to make the societal changes necessary, all sorts of ingredients will be helpful. So, there are probably — I suspect — some very helpful points made in the post.

    But, the reason that my mind couldn’t partake is this: For the last three years, I have seen so many posts (for two of those years, I was mainly on Dot Earth, until I gave that up in frustration) regarding a search for the “magic word” that would finally explain climate change to the public, or the “perfect framing”, or etc. etc. etc. But I’ve come to the realization that (being humans as we are) REAL ACTION is what conveys meaning, importance, weight, sincerity, credibility, wisdom, urgency, and other good things. This is not to say that words aren’t important. It is, however, to say that if we consider words SO MUCH that it delays the obvious needs for real action, or if we think that words themselves will do the trick, we’re mistaken and not using time as well as we could be doing so. And if we overdo it, we’re fooling ourselves.

    If 5,000 people demonstrate for 48 hours around the API building, or if two million people will find the verve to boycott and demonstrate against ExxonMobil, on a prolonged basis, they can call themselves whatever they like, and thirty different things — the tooth fairy, climate hawks, white doves, apple pies, whatever — no matter — and the meaning and gravity of their ACTIONS will be understood much better than if we find a precise name for ourselves but only write about it on the internet.

    Literally, every six months or so, for over two years, Dot Earth would run some sort of post seeking to find the “better word” or (what I’d call) the elusive “magic word” to help that stupid public (this was usually the unstated context) to finally understand what the wise and responsible media (this was usually also the unstated context, although Dot Earth seemed to try to defend it) was trying to get across to them. Ha!? As Dot Earth searched for the “better word”, daily The New York Times would miss key stories, confuse others, put important stories on back pages, and largely bungle things. I’d ask myself, “Is it really a ‘better word’ that’s missing, or is it just a sensible, intelligent, and responsible media that we desperately need?” The answer is obvious.

    So in any case, it’s not at all clear to me that we need a great descriptive word or name? What we need is some vision, creativity, a realization of what sorts of things bring about major societal change, and then some will and energy to act. Period. Wake me up, please, when we get to that point.

    Cheers (and TGIF),


  23. L. Carey says:

    Count me in as a Climate Hawk. I am not particularly militaristic, but I think that the national security/military overtones of “hawk” are a plus in this instance. Climate disruption is likely to constitute the no. 1 national security threat to the U.S. (and a lot of other nations) in the 21st century, and if not contained will unavoidably expose the U.S. military to a variety of threats and missions that it doesn’t want any part of. There’s no question in my mind that climate security is a key component of national security. (Currently, I think the military is viewing climate change with apprehension as a threat posing the risk of significant and dangerous disruption with unknown consequences, rather than a justification for new expenditures.)

  24. climate undergrad says:

    Hell yeah. I’m a climate hawk (and not really an environmentalist) – the distinction is actually useful.

    Joe is the climate bald-eagle.

  25. Steve Bloom says:

    PSU Grad, DFH means Dirty F***ing Hippie.

  26. Michael Tucker says:

    Joe, if you wanted to call yourself an environmentalist that would be ok by me. I suppose you shy away from that because of baggage others attach to that description. I, like you, think the most important issue facing mankind is global climate disruption.
    You said, “environmentalists have screwed up their brand through flawed messaging that focuses too much on the “environment” and not enough on people.” And in “Rename Earth Day” you said, “I think the world should be more into conserving the stuff that we can’t live without.” While admitting that, “humanity isn’t smart enough to know which things are linchpins for the entire ecosystem and which are not.” So it is best that we leave it open since we really don’t know what we can’t live without. It could happen that a new study may show that mankind is doomed unless we preserve the caribou and polar bears.

    I like climate hawk but some might think that means ‘making war on the climate’; what the business-as-usual bunch have been doing. I think we can get past that and I do like your definition of “aggressive science-driven policy” to address global climate disruption.

  27. Ah come on… I like it enough, but if you are anything but a climate hawk you’re insane.
    I mean, who in their right mind could ignore the potential for human extinction?

  28. Mark S says:

    I like Climate Hawk. Right off the bat it strikes me as that new pair of jeans that you put on and they just fit perfectly. Has all the right connotations as well as reverse implications for those on the other side.

    I also agree with other commenters that a logo is needed. I suggest a windmill whose blades are curved like wings and talons. Some graphic artist could surely make it work.

  29. David Smith says:

    Logo – Head of a hawk, black silhouette inside a tight black circle that fades out a little representing the earth and atmosphere, black to grey. Simple and to the point.

    If there’s interest, I can make one up for viewing.

  30. Milan says:

    By all means, try and cook up a logo.

  31. fj2 says:

    Is Bill Gates a climate hawk?

    inhabitat inhabitat
    Bill Gates Gives $700K to Preserve Global Warming Law

  32. Alec Johnson says:

    @David Smith: I’m interested. I’d like a logo I could use on Facebook.

  33. Amos Zeeberg says:

    Most Americans don’t want to fight climate change, and definitely don’t want the government to make them fight climate change. You’d be better off using the term “energy hawk.” See, for instance,

  34. Chris Winter says:

    “Climate Hawk” works. Its closest association is to “deficit hawk” — which does not mean “someone who promotes deficit spending.

    Rather, a deficit hawk watches the deficit and exerts control to prevent it from causing harm to the economy, now or in future. Of course the term can have negative connotations, as can climate hawk. But what term cannot?

    Plus, with “hawk”, climate hawk lends itself to a variety of good logos.

  35. Prokaryotes says:

    I like Climate Hawk.
    Lol for sky hugger ;)

  36. adelady says:

    I like hawk – both the word and the imagery. Anything about “patriot” will get all your non-Usanian friends in a temper – we just don’t think the same way.

    Most of all, I like the opposites. Climate coward, climate dodo works for me.

  37. paulm says:

    It good, but I tend to agree with #13…especially from a world perspective.

  38. Anna Haynes says:

    David #22, get to work please.

  39. Colorado Bob says:

    Navy demonstrates alternative fuel in riverine vessel

    The U.S. Navy is testing a “drop in replacement” for standard shipboard fuel that is 50 percent algae-based and 50 percent NATO F-76 fuel. Today it conducted a full power demonstration of a Riverine Command Boat (experimental) (RCB-X) powered by the fuel at Naval Station Norfolk, Va.

    Testing and evaluation of alternative fuels from the 49-ft fast RCB-X boat supports the Secretary of the Navy’s efforts to reduce the fleet’s reliance on fossil fuels and is part of a series of progressively complex tests and evaluations scheduled through 2012. These exhibitions will culminate in 2012 with a Green Strike Group of U.S. Navy ships operating locally and by 2016 deploying a Great Green Fleet powered entirely by alternative fuels.

  40. Sarah says:

    And we’ve all encountered Climate Cuckoos!

  41. Adam R. says:

    who are the “Climate Doves”?

    People who think WUWT, Climate Audit, etc. comprise the “other side” in an imaginary scientific controversy. E. g., the Washington Post.

  42. Christopher Yaun says:


    The founding fathers had to give birth to a nation and in a hurry. To fail was to be drawn and quartered by the British crown, if they survived the boat trip back to England. Compromises were made.

    All men are created equal…read all white men who own land.
    God? They knew they could never agree so there was no mention.
    Slaves? Washington and Jefferson refused to yield their favorite.

    Ignoring these issues allowed a nation to be born.

    We face multiple environmental catastrophes….depletion of fresh water, overpopulation, resource depletion (oil, phospate), a long list of species diasese (colony collapse, frogs, bats, coral bleaching), rapid extinction, over population, nitrogen eutrophication, loss of topsoil….sea level rise, glacial melt….habitat loss, jungle destruction….overconsumption….ocean acidification….

    We cannot save just one for political expedience. Landbase, environment, Eaarth trumps everything…save it all or lose it all….the Eaarth will not recognize political compromise.

    Climate Hawk? Sounds like chicken hawk to me.

    but then I talk

  43. Colorado Bob says:

    SunEdison in 2MW solar carport project in Southern California –

    I’ve often thought that this would be a powerful image. Electric cars sitting under, solar car ports at work, driving home to solar car ports that charge overnight. If I was an fossil company exec I would fear it like no other image.

  44. David B. Benson says:

    No climate doves; those others are climate crows.

  45. Colorado Bob says:

    Show some love –

    Skeptical Science is honoured to be included in the short list of the Institute of Physics Web Awards 2010. Each year, the Institute of Physics select 35 websites in 7 different categories, including Best Blog, Best News Site, Best Podcast, etc. Skeptical Science is listed in the President’s Prize category (which seems to be the miscellaneous websites that can’t be categorised elsewhere).

    Voting ends November 7 and on November 15, they announce a People’s Choice plus the judge’s choice. So be sure to register with (as only registered users can take part) and vote for Skeptical Science. Actually, you can vote/rate all the websites so have a look at some of the other websites –

  46. I’m a climate hawk.
    A draft logo was sent to:

  47. Bob Doublin says:

    #44 I BEG your pardon! I will not have my favorite birds dissed! Crows are very observant and they cooperate, guard and warn each other when danger arises.They also can assess a situation very nicely. Besides they look so beautiful in flight.;-)

  48. mike roddy says:

    Ken L is right- Climate Crisis.

    I prefer badgers.

  49. David B. Benson says:

    A more straightforward term than climate hawk is simply


  50. Russell says:

    It’s owls all the way down

  51. David B. Benson says:

    Around here the red-tailed hawks, magnificent birds, are occasionally mobbed by the resident crows.

    Same happens with climate hawks and climate crows, I suppose…

  52. fj2 says:

    Climate hawks attack! Ken Buck cowers?

  53. Fred Teal Jr. says:

    I like the term a lot. It has strong images and reflects the deep concern being felt.

  54. The Wonderer says:

    I wish to be known as a Climate Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

  55. David B. Benson says:

    Red-tailed hawks catch field mice.

    What do climate hawks catch?

  56. Leif says:

    “What do climate hawks catch?” asks David @55

    I hope we catch a shot at a future for Humanity and EAARTH’s Life Support Systems.

  57. Mike Roddy says:

    Hawks catch mice, but I’ve also seen them get gophers and snakes. No matter, though- they are dumber than parakeets, and anyway…

    This is going to be a ground war. The Cheneys and Kochs already have the air force.

    Alaskan natives from interior Yukon believed that wolverines had the deepest and most powerful spirits of any creatures, with wolves and badgers close behind. Only the raven made it to the top tier among the bird family.

    A badger will take a fresh kill from a mountain lion and then fend him off, despite a 4 to 1 weight disadvantage. Badgers and wolverines come from distant time, and their rage expresses horror over a world out of balance. They never, ever take a backward step, and many animals as well as people are in awe of them. The weasel family is also turning out to be a lot smarter and more layered than we thought- watch a family of river otters sometime if you don’t believe me.

    Dave, I love your brilliance and detailed knowledge of our political challenges. But maybe the times also call for people who are a little more gnarly, and pissed off that idiots and whores are butting in on serious conversations about the world’s future.

    A ragged, stumbling one among us is about to shoot one over the bow. Keep your eyes open for 15 Most Heinous Climate Villains, Part 2.

  58. In my heart of hearts, I agree with Jeff Huggins (comment #23).

    We need more action and fewer words.

    That said, I also realize that we also need words.

    I have been referred to a couple of times as a climate warrior. Well, I suppose I would be or will be if I ever get the opportunity to take to the streets. (I live way out in the middle of nowhere in Brazil.)

    But, I also like climate hawk because I am not an environmentalist (as that term is meant etc. with its ideological baggage, since I have no ideology).

    Go for it! It leads to the idea of action and even pro-action.

  59. A friend reminds me that “the ethical value of our species, from outside our species, is negative.”

  60. Hot Tropics says:

    Definition: Climate Hawke

    Good commentary and discussion in Climate Progress, Joe. Here is my attempt at a definition based on some of the things you have said and some of the comments –

    Climate Hawk: A person regardless of race, colour, religion or politics, interested in seeking out and commenting about scientific reports in relation to the climate, genuine climate change mitigation and adaption; and effective public policy which leads to beneficial efforts to preserve a reasonable standard of living for all and helping to alleviate potential suffering, loss of life and property.

  61. dp says:

    @ben: your country needs you to take science seriously

  62. Lars Karlsson says:

    May I suggest that the opposite of a “climate hawk” is a “climate slug”?

  63. Great read!

    I happen to visit your blog from a fellow blogger’s blog. I think i will be coming more often .:)

  64. dp says:

    @ben: true patriots keep a solid wall between basic science and their politics, for the good of the country’s future

  65. I like it and am going to start using it now, calling myself a climate hawk and encouraging my like-mined friends to do the same!

  66. Chris Winter says:

    David B. Benson wrote: “Around here the red-tailed hawks, magnificent birds, are occasionally mobbed by the resident crows.”

    Not long ago, I observed a red-tail sitting atop a transmission tower outside the place where I work. Three crows were buzzing it in relays — but they didn’t get too close. Meanwhile the hawk just sat there unconcerned. This went on for half an hour (per my intermittent observation) until the hawk flew away to take care of business.

  67. Fredolito says:

    Carbon hawk.

    Not climate hawk, carbon hawk.


    1) see #34 Amos Zeeberg. Carbon hawk includes those who are agnostic about the reality of climate change, or the fact that it is bad, or just don’t care– but embrace the war on carbon for other reasons (economics, national security, etc.)

    2) see #35 Chris Winters. “Something hawk” means someone who is against “Something” and desires its defeat or to prevent its expansion. Not just deficit hawk, but Iran hawk, Iraq hawk, etc. So climate hawk doesn’t make sense because nobody is against “climate,” we just oppose a particular kind of climate, or rapid change in climate. In this sense “climate change hawk” or “global warming hawk” work better. But, they are three words. And, carbon hawk works even better because of reason 1.

    [JR: I don’t mind carbon hawk, but I don’t see it as better. This is not true: “Something hawk” means someone who is against “Something” and desires its defeat or to prevent its expansion.” Military hawks just want strong action taken in the military realm.]

  68. JeandeBegles says:

    Fredolito is right: carbon hawk is much more relevant than climate hawk.
    Anyway, i don’t like hawk, because hawk relates to Donald Rumsfeld and a stupid policy based on a childish vision of good and bad.
    It is very hard for me to understand why people like Joe Romm and a majority of his readers can find the climate hawk wording interesting (on this point I agree with Jeff Huggin, and no 17, 19 and 59.

    [JR: Folks seem to conflate hawks and neo-cons, especially incompetent ones. I don’t see Rumsfeld as emblematic of hawks. But I come from an older generation, I suppose.]

  69. Love the term and feel it is descriptive of myself and many others in my sphere who work in green and cleantech investing. Many of us are certainly not traditional ‘tree huggers’ but rather quant-based economists and finance types convinced that warming and its associated effects pose a clear threat to civilization. Further, we believe we can’t count on policy makers to midwife the transition to an Earth-and-civilization sustainable economy, so we have to do it ourselves, in our case by providing a conduit of capital to the enterprises providing the technologies, processes, products and other solutions to the most pressing issues. Not just energy; multi-part problems require multi-part solutions. Yep, call me a climate hawk.

  70. Seth says:

    I like the term Climate Hawk and will use it. It usefully hints at the opposite being Climate Dove, which is exactly the weak, defensive posture we want denialists to be in. They are risking all our futures, and deserve to be labelled as doing so.

    Btw, I’m intrigued by the backlash that has set in against “framing” as mere marketing. I guess we climate hawks (so far) are a geeky group and tend to think sales and marketing are pure fluff that don’t add anything to the conversation. REAL climate hawks ONLY do science, I guess?

    At any rate, Dave Roberts has done a great job “framing” our message by coining (or propagating) the climate hawk label. His post is a fine example of using language intelligently to elicit positive reactions and promote the propagation and reinforcement of an idea through a broader population. Meme-ological warfare, if you will.

  71. thomas says:

    this is exactly what progressive movements need: another term to distinguish members from people it makes no sense to distinguish themselves from. Lets keep dividing, coming up with new lingo, and all the while wonder why we don’t get anywhere on these issues.

    Good luck explaining climate hawk to the vast majority of americans who still don’t know why we say climate change instead of global warming.

  72. John Mason says:

    I was going to post this morning but felt I needed to think about the idea a little more. Often we do not pause enough for thought to catch up!

    Hawkishness equates IMO with pro-activeness, which is why I’m happy enough with the notion after thinking it through. Of course, you can have hawkishness on behalf of both positive and negative, progressive and regressive things, but in definitive terms it is the first word that equally matters in all instances, e.g. you could be an anti-science or pro-nuclear war hawk but the first part of the title would clearly identify you to everyone.

    Thomas #72 – WRT to your last sentence particularly, I feel that is a different issue, but not an insignificant one. I prefer climate destabilisation, by the way, just as I prefer “the political opponents of climate science” to “deniers”. Both are way more accurate terms.

    Cheers – John

  73. Some European says:

    Good idea, although I’m not very inclined to call myself one. I just can’t stop thinking of Rumsfeld. And climate patriot just smacks too much of nationalism, as I understand, one of the main causes of war…
    And how are climate patriots from different countries ever going to agree on anything?
    I think #2’s suggestion, climate coward might also turn out to be useful.

    Now that we’re playing the term coining game, I’d like to repeat my claim at ‘generacide’.
    Again, I’m late to the party, so not many people will pick it up.
    I’ll keep trying.

  74. not bad at all, is my first thought.

    i’ve been playing for the last few months with this notion–i think very true–that we need to keep saying that the radicals on climate are those who are willing to double the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and just see what happens. this helps get that across.

    in any event, good to be leaning forward!

  75. I am an environmentalist, an ecologist, a scientist. I am not a hawk in the sense of being a militarist supporting war. I wish to sustain and improve the living conditions on our planet for generations to come. Will I have to become a “climate hawk” to do that? So be it.

    [JR: The journal Nature says, “Scientists must now emphasize the science, while acknowledging that they are in a street fight.”]

  76. Allow me to wade in on this lively and important discussion. I have an easy label that I use to quickly identify myself: ‘environmental physicist’. Granted this only applies to a few people who have that qualification. That’s why I agree there is a vital need to find a label that can be used by the general public. That is, those who want to do the right thing by the climate but honesty don’t qualify for current labels such as ‘environmentalist’, ‘ecologist’, ‘climate activist’, ‘climate expert’ or ‘climate scientist’.

    Excuse the pun, but ‘climate hawk’ will never fly with me. I’m of that generation, I believe like some others here, who identified ‘hawks’ in Washington as the real enemy of America, those who propagated the Vietnam War and, of late, the Iraq War. Both tragedies by all measures, especially in life and wealth.

    You will never change this image of ‘hawk’ in the public mind. For the Baby Boomer generation, who are still a very large contingent, ‘hawks’ are synonymous with narrow-minded reactionaries who border on extremism, who believe brute force and violence (shoot, club, arrest) solves social and international problems and disagreements. Their motto is: It’s my way or no way.

    From another aspect, I live in Europe and I can assure you that people here would never use such a label as ‘hawk’. From their perspective ‘climate hawk’ clearly smacks of over-the-top American testosterone and jingoism, if not George Bushism.

    With that said, I would propose another derivation of ‘climate hawk’ that would be both strong and far more palatable for generational and international climate supporters: ‘Climate Defender’. Like ‘patriot’ (too American to be international, it’s like saying ‘climate comrade’ in Kansas), ‘defender’ has a positive cultural connotation of hero, which is recognized worldwide. ‘Defender’ is also clearly a human being, not a fearsome animal. As a life-long urbanite myself, it would be a more honest label for a vast majority of people.

    Finally, as a physicist who’s trained to think ‘outside the box’, why do we have to decide on just one label? One-size-fits-all, type thinking? Why not use most of the new suggestions here, whichever fits the image and persuasion of the person who wants to embrace it. So, let it be: climate hawk, climate patriot, climate defender, sky hugger, etc. Remember, we are trying to expand the number of categories that climate supporters can honesty identify with and qualify for as a personal label to describe how they feel they fit in the grand scheme of things.

    By the way, instead of talking about ‘climate change’, ‘climate crisis’, or ‘climate threat’, why not go to the heart of the issue: ‘Carbon Threat’.

    Dennis Shibut for Kyoto Action

  77. I like this term and will use it in my writing. Well done.

  78. David B. Benson says:

    Chris Winter @76 — Exactly so. The crows at least have the sense to stay out of range of the hawk’s beak and talons.

    Just sound and fury, signifying nothing.

  79. Laphroaig says:

    I think I can get behind the phrase, climate hawk.

    Greg Gorman @14 – Frigatebirds? I agree with Sarah@41’s climate cuckoos. Many species of cuckoos are brood parasites that, effectively, shirk their responsibilities by leeching off the labor and resources of others to their own benefit while endagering the survival of others’ children.

  80. David B. Benson says:

    Yes, its climate hawks vs. climate cuckoos.

  81. Chris Winter says:

    @Laphroaig #80:

    Yes, like cowbirds.

  82. Chris Winter says:

    @Fredolito (#68):

    So “chicken hawk” means someone who is against poultry? No, the term has different and more subtle meanings. I suppose William Safire’s political dictionary would be the ultimate authority (on “deficit hawk” and maybe “chicken hawk”.)

    Does anyone have a copy handy?

  83. Chris Winter says:

    RE: the meanings of “hawk.”

    The term “hawk” as it applies to humans relies on one of the totemic meanings of the word. These derive from the natural attributes of the raptor: strength, fierceness, keen vision, the ability to fly or soar.

    Perhaps the oldest use draws on the attributes of strength and fierceness. The term is “war hawk” or just “hawk.” It applies to someone who glorifies war, and by implication will pursue aggressive policies whether or not they are justified. The opposite is “dove,” referring to the traditional bird of peace.

    More recently, the sardonic extension “chicken hawk” has come to describe someone who advocates war but will never have to serve as a warrior, usually because he took advantage of privilege.

    The ability to fly or soar is sometimes used to symbolize victory over some obstacle, or more general success in life.

    Finally, someone who is vigilant or has a keen eye for detail is often said to be a hawk. Thus the term “deficit hawk” means someone who keeps an eye on the budget in order to control it.

    Of course, like many short words in English, “hawk” has a host of meanings.

  84. Barry says:

    One of the great things about “climate hawk” is that it instantly creates a great set of matching names for the anti-science, denier, pro-fossil-fuel positions.

    “Climate Chickenhawk”: People who say they understand the climate threat but give endless excuses about why they don’t want to actually do anything about it. Lomborg comes to mind. As does McCain. This includes the “America Can’t Do It” crowd.

    “Climate Dodo”: People who council sticking to business as usual as the response and so are heading towards extinction.

    “Climate Ostrich”: People who refuse to engage in the issue.

    “Climate Vulture”: People who look to profit and feed off the climate impacts.

    The list is long and many of the terms are self-explanatory to broad audiences. There is a reason a term like “Hawk” has been used for years around other major national and international issues of import.

  85. T. Caine says:

    I don’t know about the Climate Hawk. It kind of sounds like a comic book super hero–like Captain Planet’s right-hand-man.

    I actually like “sustainablist”. “Sustainatarian” maybe even better? For me, sustainability is a concept that encompasses climate change and environmentalism, which is why it has the opportunity to appeal to the most people. Granted, it is also misrepresented, but sustainability can respond to many groups for many reasons, while still guiding our culture in a progressive direction.

    [JR: I’m sorry but sustainability is a term that has no meaning.]

  86. Ellie Cohen says:

    Thanks so much, Joe, for your excellent and thought-provoking blog.

    While a label doth not a movement make, I do like “climate hawk” for its multiple relevant meanings highlighted above. Among its most important meanings, however, may be its connection between the physical and biological impacts of humanity’s relentless dumping of CO2 and other greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution into our atmosphere.

    For humanity to survive, it is imperative that we make the conservation of ecological systems an equal priority to stopping our GHG pollution. Nature’s benefits– what we humans rely on from healthy functioning ecosystems including clean air, clean water, food, fiber, flood control, and carbon sequestration — are fundamental to human well-being wherever we live on this small planet of ours.

    Included in your excellent list above of must-read climate science (that makes you a “climate hawk”) is a new study that found a 40% decline in the ocean’s phytoplankton since 1950 likely due to ocean warming. Phytoplankton are the ocean’s floating plants that absorb carbon out of the atmosphere, transform the sun’s energy into food for marine food webs, and produce every other molecule of oxygen we breathe.

    Since it can take roughly a couple decades or so for the vast surface layers of the ocean to absorb extra heat in the atmosphere, the implications of this study are especially alarming. Their findings may, in essence, only represent our ~1990 levels of atmospheric CO2. We all know that much more warming has occurred since then as the rate of CO2 release has continued to rise. Even if we stopped all of our GHG pollution today, the implications are mind-boggling.

    Yet another wake-up call, among many, to urgent action for everyone, believers and skeptics alike. And a wake-up call that should inspire us all to be not only “climate hawks,” but also staunch protectors of ecosystems, “environmentalist” or not.

    “Climate Hawk”– count me in.

  87. Wit's End says:

    Barry 85, excellent work!! I am going to cut and paste your suggestions to the Grist story.

  88. Robert says:

    # 86

    “[JR: I’m sorry but sustainability is a term that has no meaning.]”

    Sustainability does not have a precise definition but in my view is central to the whole problem. Controlling CO2 emissions is one part of that problem, that of keeping human development on a track that will allow it to persist into the indefinite future and retain enough of the natural world to make life worth living.

    There are any number of interlinked factors which may cause human civilisation to unwravel, such as climate change, resource depletion, degradation of the oceans, wetlands and oceans, inability to produce food, rise of uncontrollable diseases and so on. To me, sustainability is about navigating a path through these multiple interelated issues. If our current civilisation is still hanging together in anything like its current form in 100 years then we may have succeeded, because by then we will be past the fossil fuel era.

  89. Climate Hawk is close but, and yes I too am of an older generation before chicken hawks turned into neo-cons, I prefer the term Climate Defender.

    Defender can be a very strong word and has no negative connotations. If somebody else has suggested Climate Defender previously then I apologise, I have not seen any such suggestion.

  90. fj2 says:

    Now they’re talking.

    kate_sheppard Kate Sheppard
    Every time I see a tweet from @climatehawks, I just want to go “Skrrrreeeeee!”

    climatehawks Climate Hawk
    @ @kate_sheppard Don’t fight it. Unleash your inner hawk! (brief instructional video here:

  91. paulm says:

    Thinking about this I think most of us are deep down environmentalist when we consider what, ultimately, this means. It means basically someone who is concerned about leaving the world in a state suitable for future generations to enjoy and prosper. To support the life force.

  92. JeandeBegles says:

    I repeat I don’t like Climate Hawk, because of Rumsfeld and because Hawk looks to be an independent bird, while our movement needs solidarity on a world scale, growing from a local scale.
    Here is my suggestion: why not looking for a climate hymn? A simple, multi cultural, and nice and encouraging and beautiful hymn would help a lot to create this sense of unity.
    Have we got some composers through the wealth of CP readers?

  93. fj2 says:

    Remember to eat your spinach!

  94. To #90 Lionel Smith, yes, I did suggest this previously, see comment 77 above. At least that’s two of us in agreement here.
    Dennis Shibut