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Denial Is Dead

posted by Marcus, March 1, 2017 @ 8:36 am


[UPDATE 09/04/20]:

Addi­tion to the sym­pa­thies list­ed below, this pass­ing sourced from denial group ‘The Heart­land Insti­tute’:

SINGER, Fred S. Source

[UPDATE 04/03/20]:

With the recent pass­ing of two more sig­na­to­ries to Richard Lindzen’s peti­tion I find I also missed Philip Lloyd, whose name was mis­spelled in the orig­i­nal doc­u­ment:

DYSON, Free­man Obit­u­ary
JACOBS, Albert Fred­erik Obit­u­ary
LLYOD (sic), Philip Obit­u­ary

[UPDATE 24/07/19]:

Addi­tion to the sym­pa­thies list­ed below, also:

WESTGARD, Rolf Obit­u­ary

[UPDATE 20/03/19]:

It is with sym­pa­thy that I must add, since post­ing this analy­sis, at least six of the per­sons named in this arti­cle are now deceased — like­ly more.

Grant­ed, the entire point of this piece was that cli­mate deniers are gen­er­al­ly elder­ly and will soon be gone, but not to wish them harm. I offer my con­do­lences to their loved ones. It is a ter­ri­ble tragedy to leave this world hav­ing nev­er come to terms with the truth of cli­mate change and our duty to cor­rect it.

In memo­ri­am:

HOWE, David C. Obit­u­ary
HUGHES, Ter­ence J. Obit­u­ary
KLEIN, George Devries Obit­u­ary
LEVINE, Robert E. Obit­u­ary
NICHOLS, Rod­ney W. Obit­u­ary
SAWUSCH, Mark R. Obit­u­ary


This week cli­mate denial­ist Richard Lindzen sent a let­ter to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump claim­ing to show sig­na­tures from “300 emi­nent sci­en­tists and oth­er qual­i­fied indi­vid­u­als” who think “car­bon diox­ide is not a pol­lu­tant” and rec­om­mend­ing the US with­draw the Paris Cli­mate Agree­ment — which all of the oth­er 193 coun­tries in the UN have signed up to. [EDIT: Pres­i­dent Trump has since threat­ened to pull out, which he can’t actu­al­ly do.]

DeSmog­Blog prompt­ly post­ed an excel­lent piece show­ing how Lindzen reused most of the sig­na­to­ries from pre­vi­ous peti­tions, and some pret­ty shod­dy names on the list. But I was still curi­ous. Where on earth do you find 300 sci­en­tists who still don’t get it? Almost all sci­en­tists now agree cli­mate change is real and wors­ened by human emis­sions. Even with Lindzen’s poor turnout, 300 still seems like too many. I mean, the evi­dence has been pil­ing up for decades. So just who are the Lindzen ‘300’?

DeSmog­Blog already found (above) some sketchy qual­i­fi­ca­tions. It turns out there are plen­ty more. Raphael ‘Ray’ D’Alon­zo may have a PhD but he’s run­ning an Ohio dry clean­er. Not your typ­i­cal ’emi­nent sci­en­tist’. Kevin Ben­n’s degree is in the arts. He’s not a sci­en­tist at all. He’s a voice over artist. Avid Ipswich gar­den­er Bar­ry Beetham is a fre­quent writer of strange ‘let­ters to the edi­tor’ includ­ing one that asks whether chick­en hor­mones cause 12 yrs olds to com­mit sex­u­al assault. Ben “Bud” Brigham is an oil tycoon who made bil­lions off shale oil, and decid­ed to become an actor. Mike Elliot from Syd­ney went to voca­tion­al train­ing, not Uni­ver­si­ty. Swede Nils Håkon Røm­cke — also with no list­ed qual­i­fi­ca­tions — is described as an “email­er who wished to sign the peti­tion.” In fact, only two-thirds of the peo­ple on the list even have a mas­ter’s degree or bet­ter and one-in-ten have no appar­ent qual­i­fi­ca­tions at all.

With­out going any fur­ther it’s already clear that cli­mate denial is dead.

If the best Lindzen can do is cob­ble togeth­er this sor­ry effort, then the debate is over. Well and tru­ly.

But some­thing else about his list both­ered me.

The Lindzen ‘300’ are old.

Like, old old.

I start­ed look­ing them up. Find­ing the right per­son and their birth­day was tricky. Most of them pre­date Face­book or Twit­ter. Where I did find Uni­ver­si­ty records I gave them a faster than aver­age grad­u­a­tion to con­ser­v­a­tive­ly deduce their age. Before I knew it, I’d been at my com­put­er all night just get­ting through 120 of them. So I tried plug­ging in a few out­liers and the round­ed aver­age did­n’t change. The results were alarm­ing.

Now, before I go any fur­ther you’re like­ly won­der­ing what kind of per­son both­ers with all this. I admit, I hap­pen to think cut­ting car­bon pol­lu­tion is impor­tant. For a start, it already kills mil­lions of peo­ple every year — and it’s ris­ing. For me pre­serv­ing life is the rea­son we’re here. We’re mad to play dice games with the lives of future gen­er­a­tions. And now? The evi­dence is clear. There are a dozen dif­fer­ent proofs that we’re warm­ing the plan­et dan­ger­ous­ly fast. Most peo­ple get it. We’ve had plen­ty of time to get our heads around it and ask our ques­tions. So you need a VERY good rea­son now NOT to do any­thing — to let peo­ple die. And any­one who thinks we should­n’t cut our emis­sions needs to explain them­selves. It’s that sim­ple. So every one of the 300 peo­ple on Lindzen’s list has a moral duty to explain to the rest of us why they’re okay with “inac­tion with dis­re­gard for human life.” (Which, by the way, in most West­ern legal codes is pret­ty much the def­i­n­i­tion of mur­der.) And last­ly, there’s Twit­ter. Lindzen and his ‘300’ are just about the only thing the remain­ing denial­ists have left to cling to.

So, the aver­age PhD in the whole of the USA is earned at 33 years old — and a third of the Lindzen’s ‘300’ don’t even have mas­ters degrees. Even few­er are pro­fes­sors. The aver­age ful­ly tenured pro­fes­sor in the USA is 55 years old. The medi­an age in the USA is 38. So you should expect the aver­age age of Lindzen’s ‘300’ — based on the mix of qual­i­fi­ca­tions giv­en — to be in the ear­ly 40s.

But the aver­age age of the Lindzen ‘300’ is over 71.

71! That means most of them went to school before satel­lites, com­put­ers, or the abil­i­ty to direct dial some­one on a phone.

Get ready to scroll…

[EDIT: Sig­na­to­ries pre­sumed deceased are now greyed out]

Lindzen 300 Ages Chart

Fad­ed rows indi­cate sig­na­to­ry deceased.

Full data and ref­er­ences can be found here. If you’d like to help fact check or fill in the rest, jump in.

Now, I doubt Lindzen pur­pose­ly picked these peo­ple for being old. He’d have to spend two days trawl­ing the inter­net like I did, and that would be messed up. So why are all the cli­mate skep­tics so old? Is it because they went to school before any­one knew about glob­al warm­ing? Old dogs, new tricks? Many of them spent their lives work­ing in oil and gas, coal min­ing, or oth­er emis­sions inten­sive sec­tors. Maybe it’s hard to come to terms with a life­time of pol­lu­tion. Or could it even be that they’re not long for this world? Maybe they just don’t care? There are plen­ty of polls around show­ing that young peo­ple care more about cli­mate change than old­er peo­ple. But most of the avail­able data stops slic­ing at 50 or 60. Based on the Lindzen ‘300’, most peo­ple out­right oppos­ing doing any­thing about cli­mate change are over 70.

I don’t have an answer why. It could be a lit­tle of all these things. I’d like to know what oth­ers think. But one thing is for cer­tain: It’s only a mat­ter of time before there are no cli­mate deniers left.

[EDIT: Don­ald Trump is also 71. Coin­ci­dence?]

Worst case, we’ll have to wait a few years for the denial­ists to get out of the way.

Spe­cial thanks to and the many oth­ers who relent­less­ly pro­mot­ed truth and decen­cy in the face of a decade of rub­bish behav­iour by oth­er humans. We’re almost there.

3 Responses to “Denial Is Dead”

  1. Matt Drum says:

    Scary thing is, ‘cur­rent ’ pres­i­dent of US of A is right on your aver­age denial­ist age! Great arti­cle MG! 71, seri­ous­ly! I wish they would just f#$ck off. They had their chance, blew it. So move over dinosaurs!!

  2. tadaaa says:

    Bril­liant — thanks for you time on this

    absurd that any­one has to spend time defend­ing accept­ed sci­ence

  3. pretorian says:

    George Mon­biot had a take on this years ago. In old age it gets hard­er for peo­ple to deny their own inevitable death. Con­fronting cli­mate change, anoth­er ques­tion of ‘doom’, is a just a tad too much for some old peo­ple. For younger peo­ple, who can still think they’ll live for­ev­er, it’s eas­i­er too accept. Whether they’re going to do some­thing about it…