Posted by: nzydmahara | December 16, 2009

The Six Personas of Climate Deniers

We’ve all been there before. Having a conversation when the topic turns to climate change and someone pipes up with their views that it’s not true and all a great conspiracy. In fact we all know at least a few people like that, in fact I know a few more than a few.
They call themselves skeptics and often cite obscure facts or emails which they don’t really understand and take out of context. Now don’t get me wrong having a degree of scepticism is a good thing. We should all be sceptical and challenge things. However when 98% of the scientific community and all the statistical data supports the fact that climate change is real and human induced perhaps we should take that on board. In fact that is where things move from scepticism to just slowing down progress. In reality they are not sceptics but roadblocks to progress.
The interesting thing is I don’t believe their beliefs have anything to do with the actual science, but is about their own issues. So in today’s blog I will introduce you to the ‘Six Personas of Climate Deniers’.

Persona One –The Pseudo Intellect

These are people that pride themselves on being ‘smarter than the rest’. They want to try and somehow appear moreintelligent by going contrary to the intellectual norm. They are often quick to debate the issue and are often full of facts and figures (however deceptive they may be).

Persona Two – The Salmon
These people like to swim against the tide and appear different to everyone else. These are similar to the ‘pseudo intellect’ and enjoy being different, however this lot tend to do it more on more of a social basis. They want to be the counterpoint in social settings, to stand out amongst the crowd.

Persona Three – The Baron

These people have a vested interest in industries that would be seriously impacted upon by reducing emissions. Baron’s can come in two forms – out and out deniers, and roadblocks. The former is somewhat self explanatory, the latter tends to be more dangerous. Roadblocks are very active in lobbying and will look to protect their patch. They will be more subtle about their viewpoints and tend to use traditional economic models to argue their point.

Persona Four – The Vested Politician
These people have strongly held political beliefs which are at odds with what would be required to address climate change. Almost all respected commentators say that achieving the emissions reductions needed will require strong government intervention. If this is at odds with their political beliefs (e.g. ‘Neo-liberal’) then they would rather deny that climate change is happening rather than forgo their political beliefs.

Persona Five – The Ostrich
These are the head in the sand people. They see climate change as a threat to the way they live their lives, so would rather pretend it isn’t real than actually make changes to their lives. The scary thing is that they make up the largest proportion of the deniers and even within the general population.

Persona Six – The Joey Tribianni
These are the uninformed. They do not really understand the issues but have been influenced by one of the first four personas into holding their beliefs. When probed they often simply reply with a “My friend understands it a lot better than I do”.

So those are my take on the various persona traits of climate deniers. There are probably more so feel free to send me through your thoughts on other ones as well. The interesting thing is that these personas are not mutually exclusive they may all be happening at the same time in a single person.

My key point is that next time you encounter a climate change denier who thinks this is all a great socialist conspiracy take a second to think about what point of view they are coming from. It will go a long way to explaining why they really hold the position they do.

Remember which is the more likely – 98% of scientists and scientific organisations conspired together or somehow misread the multitude of data from all around the world? Or there are a few people out there who have interests or world views that mean they refuse to acknowledge the overwhelming facts?



  1. To be honest, this entry is ridiculous. Its not informative or analytical enough to be of any academic merit, nor humourous enough to be satire. You can’t just write scepticism off through crude and painfully invalid stereotypes.

    And even in saying that, there is entirely a case for scepticism.

    The base of your argument in this piece seems to be that the consensus believe that man-made global warming is occurring and, therefore, it factually is. However, consensus, whilst important in politics, doesn’t really mean anything in science. Yes – it’s nice to have people to agree with you; but science needs only one person to be right (i.e. they have results that are backed by real, verifiable data). The simple argument you have put forward – that if the majority believe something it must be true – makes you, if I am not wrong, somewhat of a ‘Joey Tribbiani’.

    So, taking that in context, do we have results backed by real, verifiable data? Not really. In fact according to the IPCC we are in a situation where “The state of science at present is such that it is only possible to give illustrative examples of possible outcomes.” That’s a direct quote from their ‘Climate Change: A Scientific Basis’ publication. They go on to say that “The long term prediction of future climate states is not possible.”
    Now for me, that leaves a case for scepticism. Call me an ostrich or a pseudo-intellect if you will but in my view there is enough doubt in the actual consensus to be sceptical as towards man-made climate change.

    • I would respond however that your argument is based upon the assumption that as long as there is any doubt whatsoever then we should not do anything. Unfortunately climate science is such that you can never know absolutely beyond doubt what will happen (hence IPCC being a prudent scientific organisation in their statement). I believe that the fact that there is almost total scientific consensus and data enough to realise that maybe we shouldn’t take chances with the future of our planet.

      I would turn the question back and say what would it take you to believe that climate change is happening? Clearly it seems that 98% of scientists and reams of supporting data is not enough.

  2. There’s not just any doubt, there is a large amount of doubt. Note the sentence – “The long term prediction of future climate states is not possible.” The inability to actually predict future climate states leaves me with a feeling that there is a lot of doubt.

    And again, just because 98% (can you actually point me to where you got this statistic from?!) of scientists believe it doesn’t make it true. I could now point to all the theories throughout history that have had the scientific consensus and have been wrong (world is flat, phrenology, the belief in the 70s that we were facing another ice age etc).

    Think back to 100 years ago. Think of all the things we have now that they couldn’t even have contemplated would ever come into existence. What I am saying is that with the rapid way the earth continually changes, we should instead focus our efforts on things we have concrete knowledge of (poverty, disease, inequality), rather than vast speculations of possible perceived future states.

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