The thing is, these beliefs are, or should be, orthogonal. Opinions on one question should not determine or even influence opinions on the second. If people were thinking clearly, public opinion would be arrayed in the quadrants independently. (This is a different matter than evaluating one's own certainty; most wise people would say they are not quite certain if AGW is happening, but if forced to guess would be able to do so without recourse to a coin-toss.)
If we designate:
- Position A as: "Human activities are warming the environment significantly"
- Position B as: "Human activities are not warming the environment significantly"
- Position 1 as: "We should err on the side of protecting the environment"
- Position 2 as: "We should err on the side of protecting the economy"
Compare this to a substantively different, formally similar grid, regarding the opinions of a group of dinner guests as to whether the host should take his leave of the party in order to investigate strange noises emanating from the garage:
- Position A is: "The noises from the garage are a raccoon robbing the trash cans."
- Position B is: "The noises from the garage are creaking beams, nothing to worry about."
- Position 1 is: "We should err on the side of preventing the raccoon from spreading garbage around."
- Position 2 is: "We should err on the side of avoiding confrontation with a possibly rabid animal."
The difference, of course, is scale. Position 1 on the AGW question may involve spending huge sums of economic wealth; I surmise that many who hold Position B avoid Position 1 for this reason. This is a natural enough position, psychologically, but I don't regard it as quite logically defensible. It is reasonable to err on the side of the environment while dismissing AGW as a certain or even plausible phenomenon. In that case the logical way to protect the environment would be some combination of:
- protecting biodiversity and native habitats of threatened species,
- minimizing waste, especially of artificial gasses (often halocarbons) with long half-lives,
- continuing intensive study of climates, coastlines, icebergs, the atmosphere, etc.