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Denial Is Dead
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. Ten years ago, when the debate began I felt right away we’d be mad to play dice games with childrens’ lives. 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. How and why is it okay to leave people to die? 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…
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 www.DeSmogBlog.com 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.
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