Katharine Hayhoe: The Five Stages of Climate Denial

August 4, 2017

Facebook – Katharine Hayhoe PhD: 

In listening to politicians talk about climate change, we are often encouraged and hopeful when one who previously said, “it isn’t real” changes their tune to “it might be, but even if it is, it isn’t bad”.

I am usually a pretty positive person, but I am sorry to say this does NOT make me hopeful. Why? Because it’s just one more stage in the Five Stages of Climate Denial, as follows:

STAGE ONE: Climate isn’t changing – you scientists are faking/cherrypicking/manufacturing the data and we will continue to investigate you until we prove it.

STAGE TWO: Okay, climate IS changing–but not because of humans. Everyone knows it’s [insert favourite cause: natural cycles, volcanoes, the sun, cosmic rays, or we should study it more because scientists still don’t know].

STAGE THREE: It’s changing, and it’s us, but hey – who wouldn’t prefer warmer weather and higher carbon dioxide levels? It’s all good. Pass the margaritas.

STAGE FOUR: It’s changing, it’s us, and some of the impacts might be bad; but it’s far more expensive to fix it than it is to live with the consequences. At least for my donors, that is.

STAGE FIVE: Oops! It’s too late to do anything about it now. You scientists really should have tried harder to warn us. Your bad.

Though some of these stages may sound more benign than others, they don’t make me hopeful because they all lead to the same conclusion -> that any action to fix climate change is a Bad Idea.

That’s why, when it comes to politics, what gives me true hope is the Citizens Climate Lobby Bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus. Currently boasting 50 members, exactly half Republican and half Democrat (because you can’t join unless you have a partner from the other party), it focuses ACTION.


13 Responses to “Katharine Hayhoe: The Five Stages of Climate Denial”

  1. Debunking Citizens Climate Lobby, A Front Group Promoting New Nuclear Plants Via Carbon Taxes That Mean Financial Windfall For Nuclear Industry; Greenwashing False Pro Nuclear Claims And Deception By James Hansen, Wigley, Emanuel, Ken Caldeira

    • J4Zonian Says:

      I’m completely against nukes for many reasons, but renewables are built, mined, processed, etc. with fossil fuels now, too. As renewables become the main energy of civilization they will be built more and more with renewable energy, obviously, until they’re completely renewable, recursively, but nukes will also be built by renewables as that happens, too, reducing their carbon footprint. Nukes currently have a carbon footprint about 10 times renewables and that’s one of many reasons not to build any more, but we have to be honest. And crazy conspiracy theories don’t help anyone.


  2. vierotchka Says:

    Sad and despairingly frustrating.

    • Tom Bates Says:

      What is really sad is giving this wacko space to push her ideas which you may notice are unsupported by any actual study data. It is her opinion, just like the opinion the Moon is made of green cheese and Mars is inhabited.

      • Earl Mardle Says:

        I love it.

        Not only does Tom do his Roger Rabbit impression (give him “shave and a haircut” and he can’t resist hopping in with his “two bits!!!”) he perfectly exemplifies his inability to move beyond Stage One. Thanks Tom, for reminding the rest of us why we even need to bother discussing this.

        Next time, “Does the sun rise in the east? Opinions are divided. Stay tuned.”

      • lesliegraham1 Says:

        Good grief.

        Words fail.

        It is only when I venture into the last refuge of the last of the deniers – namely the comments sections of climate blogs – that I am reminded just how utterly unhinged some of them were.
        You sound like some lunatic from the late 80’s.
        Not supported by data!!!
        Are you for real. Only by an entire canon of science dating back a century or more.
        Only by the most basic level of physics – also known and understood for over a century.
        You whackos just slay me. Even without the mountains of evidence and data from tens of thousands of studies – all you have to do is look out of your window. It’s impossible to avoid seeing the obvious everyday reality of climate change all over the planet. You need help – seriously – get some help.

  3. Tom Bates Says:

    For somebody who calls themselves a scientist, she offers nothing but claims and denial of actual data. Plenty of data shows the climate is changing and always has changed. That same data shows it colder and warmer in the past unrelated to CO2 ppm. Even models like MODTRANS show CO2 warming to be miniscule. 0.67F in about 150 years warmer than today. That would bring us to about the temperature in 1000 AD. This woman lost her way and has become a typical wacko pushing the latests idea like the phd who claims aliens would be the size of polar bears.

    • Earl Mardle Says:

      Sounding defensive there Tom. But in your own spirit, can you please provide data or qualified research the rate of belief in aliens the size of polar bears among typical wackos?

      Put up, or shut up.

  4. J4Zonian Says:

    The original model this is a nod to–Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ 5 stages of dying or more accurately, grief–has become stuck in the mind of the public. Professionals have come to think of it as different tasks (my word for it) that aren’t sequential but are jumped around in, jumped over, repeated sometimes, cycled and looped and skipped… not stages at all. The same is true of these forms of denial. They’re all used simultaneously in the throw it against the wall and see what sticks strategy, and some people even use multiple, contradictory, strategies, sometimes even in the course of one argument.

    The upshot of the tasks of grieving model is that all of the tasks except the last–acceptance–involve denial; in fact you could say they’re all forms of denial, as in the model here. And acceptance comes in stages for almost everyone, in dying, grieving and climate catastrophe.

    The tasks are generally thought of as: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Sometimes other stages are included (action, for example, although true and full acceptance is automatically accompanied by (more or less) appropriate action). We can see that they can actually all be engaged in at the same time. Some people deny, are furious (especially if you try to shake them out of any of the stages they’re involved in), bargain by throwing capitalism, technological optimism, or other ameliorations in, are fighting depression with every word, (not really in it yet, but everything they do is geared toward staying out of it so its presence is enormous in them and their words and actions), and almost everyone now accepts some part of climate cataclysm, however tiny a part it is (climate always changes, for example. Even “I’m not a scientist” is acceptance of the progression of the argument toward full acceptance; it’s such a temporary holding action everyone knows it, even everyone who doesn’t know it, which is almost everyone.

    It’s useful to think of these tasks when confronting denial in any form, useful to match arguments to one or more tasks and ask What is the person going through? How can I help them accomplish what they need to to move on to more advanced awareness? (aka the next stage) This is extremely–extremely!–hard in writing. Really only works in person.

  5. redskylite Says:

    Interesting thoughts from Katherine, it is a jolt and can be a traumatic experience to come to a realization that something you thought was fact and the truth is actually not so. Most lay people would have heard the warnings from science, if they watch decent news on Television or read decent news media, or even noticed changes over a long time themselves. So why do they continue to reject it?, despite the warnings and the tragic images. If they ever reach stage 5, I don’t think they would blame decent, serious scientists like Katherine, David Archer, Richard Alley, Michael Mann and the many others who continuously warn, from a pool of earned and educated knowledge. No ! – they would blame scientists like Judith Curry, Roy Spencer, John Christy and Willie Soon, for supporting their beliefs and minimizing the problem. Maybe they would even blame themselves for being so stubborn and blocking their input channels from reality. Who cares, they are holding us back. Don’t vote for them.

    If you bother to read a newspaper you could hardly miss a headline of warning like this –

    Extreme weather could kill 150,000 people each year in Europe by the end of the century, say scientists

    Hundreds of millions of people will be exposed to deadly weather events by 2100, researchers warn.


  6. Zimmerman’s strange outburst was a factor in his 2016 City Council 15% reelection loss by 15% in Austin’s most conservative district.

  7. […] the calamity unfolding before our eyes, many people and organizations still cast doubt on climate science and scientists, and politicians and governments fight against the very measures critical to addressing the crisis […]

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