What’s a Good Term for the Opinion Leaders Who Just Don’t Get Global Warming?

Between the climate hawks and the anti-science deniers is a vast sea of highly influential people who don’t get global warming.

By “don’t get” I mean they fail to understand that business as usual emissions (or some vague “energy quest” focused on R&D) will lead with high probability to multiple, simultaneous catastrophes any one of which should be enough to motivate aggressive action now, but combined represent the greatest preventable threat humanity has ever faced.  See “An Illustrated Guide to the Science of Global Warming Impacts” for a review of 50 recent studies.


Humanity’s Choice (via M.I.T.):  Inaction (“No Policy”) eliminates most of the uncertainty about whether or not future warming will be catastrophic — or unimaginably beyond catastrophic:  10°F [ 5.5°C] or higher).  Aggressive emissions reductions starting now dramatically improves humanity’s chances below 5°F.

I have written about these people in the past (see “Most opinion leaders just don’t get global warming” and “People who don’t get it: Robert J. Samuelson“).  But I’m planning to focus on them more in the coming months since they are the most influential group of “movable” or “persuadable” people.

But what to call them?

Dave Roberts of Grist sometimes calls them Very Serious People, but that is too kind to them.

Some of them are VUPs (Very Uninformed Persons).  That’s true, say, of many in the media and politics and academia and … well, a whole lot of people

A smaller group of them have looked at the issue somewhat, focusing on outdated analyses or the few studies and “experts” who think  the whole thing is overblown.  These are the “Think Small” centrists and lukewarmers who also helped shrink the political space in the debate (see “Michael Lind of the New America Foundation misinforms on both climate science and clean energy” and “Science Times stunner: “… a majority of the section’s editorial staff doubts that human-induced global warming represents a serious threat to humanity“).

And no, I don’t like the term lukewarmer much, although it is better than nothing.

Anyway, I’m open to suggestions.

94 Responses to What’s a Good Term for the Opinion Leaders Who Just Don’t Get Global Warming?

  1. How about “ostriches” as many tend to have their heads – figuratively speaking – firmly stuck in the sand? Would also make for good illustrations: climate hawks circling above with eyes wide open and ostriches down below not seeing much of anything with their heads stuck in the sand.

  2. Mimikatz says:

    Climate ostriches is good, lukewarmers is good, how about climate zombies or climate complacents or climate jellyfish because they are so spineless.

  3. Mike Roddy says:

    The Fryers Club
    Things who grow better with Koch
    Robots from the 50’s

  4. Climate Stupid/Moron/Idiot/Slug/Myoptic
    Climate Dunce/Dupe/Dope/Lame/Laggard
    Climate Dim/Dense/Dull/Deficient/Obtuse
    Climate Coward/Mouse/Bum/Scum/Wimp/Wuss

    Climate Change Enabler

  5. Jameson Quinn says:

    I like the birds. Climate _____

    – Hawks – want to do something about it.
    – Cuckoos – crazy people incapable of caring for their own children. Deniers.
    – Ostriches – don’t get it and don’t want to.
    – Dodos – honestly didn’t get it, now largely extinct.
    – Plovers – pretends to be hurt to distract you from the issue.
    – Albatross – killed, haunt those responsible.
    – Vampires – OK, that’s not a bird, but we need some word for the Koch brothers, and they are as inhuman as vampires are unbird.

    … I should probably stop.

  6. todd tanner says:

    I’m not a big Harry Potter fan, but the word “muggles” was inspired. I’d take advantage of the the Potter books & movies by taking a phrase like “climate muggles” and shortening it into something along the lines of “cuggles.”

    It’s the kind of word the media eats up, and we want to make it as easy as possible for the term to enter the lexicon. With that in mind, I’d go with Cuggles.

  7. Jameson Quinn says:

    If the deniers are the fossils, then the chumps are the fossil fuel. Ba-dum-bump.

  8. fj says:

    “Legacy leaders” comes to mind where legacy technology is old outdated technology often very expensive, difficult to maintain, and does not do the job well at all.

  9. Nichol says:

    Climate Vultures, as they hang around, enjoying to peck at the decaying remnants of the world.

  10. Blair says:

    Carbon Liberals

    The deniers tend to be conservative and would hate to be called liberals. The irony is many of them are deficit hawks and don’t see the inherent contradiction of being fiscal deficit hawks and carbon deficit liberals at the same time.

  11. john atcheson says:

    How about “the silent but deadly?”

  12. Anne Butterfield says:

    Quinns’s aviary of types is best. Where he has “vampire” put in “vulture” or, for the most inane of such carrion-eating predators, “turkey vulture”.

  13. fj says:

    “Climate apathetics” because being apathetic at this extremely important point in human history is indeed pathetic.

  14. Jan says:

    Climate Primate

    I also like #5 “climate cuckoo” (alliteration). Any other birds that start with “c”?

  15. David Smith says:

    The Good Americans; a reference to WWII “Good Germans”

  16. Raul M. says:

    I’ve read the question “but, don’t you care about the future of your children?”
    From a different generation of newly prosperous consumers the statement might become “I do care about the future of my parents.”
    There must be many who are of age to understand
    and their parents are young enough to see the change in weathers around the whole world.

  17. Artful Dodger says:


  18. Joe Immen says:

    Climate Nappers

    (This is my favorite because it is not so harsh and implies that people just need to wake up)

    Climate Blind
    Climate Deaf
    Climate Casuals
    Climate Fiddlers or Future Fiddlers
    Climate Care-frees
    Climate Naive
    Climate Negligent
    Climate Soft
    Climate Callous
    Climate Comatose
    Climate Vacant
    Gone Warming
    The Ones Who Should Have Known

  19. Paul H Ray says:

    How about “climate fools” because their inability or unwillingness to ‘get it’ is the biggest folly in the history of humanity

    But for the liars, “climate vultures” sounds just about right.

  20. Barry says:

    It’s vital to think strategically about what choice of term is most likely to move and persuade opinion leaders who are “movable” or persuadable”, as opposed to simply angering and alienating them. I think this means avoiding the very harsh and dismissive terms, such as those that suggest stupidity. My favorites of those suggested so far are Ostrich, Apathetics, Nappers, and several of Immen’s others: Naives, Fiddlers, Soft, and Care-free.

  21. dick smith says:

    Too subtle…it took a second…but I love it.

  22. dick smith says:

    Too subtle…but I love it.

  23. Eclecticlip says:

    how about Hard Maginot Liners?

    After the Maginot Line, the W.W. 2 French defense strategy which was based on an out of date understanding of military strategy…

  24. Mike Roddy says:


  25. Greg Wellman says:

    These are good. I immediately thought of Dodos when I read the headline question.

  26. Tom Gray says:

    I tend to agree that harshness will just end up being a non-starter. Maybe climate doves, inasmuch as that is related to climate hawks? Climate ignorers also comes to mind. Ha! Climate pollyannas, or just pollyannas. Panglossians (whoa, now I’m an elitist snob). Dreamers. Snoozers.

  27. Tom Gray says:

    Good exercise–got me thinking, what would I say if I weren’t terminally pissed at these folks? So thanks.

  28. Tom Gray says:

    And my wife suggests climate pigeons. One more–climate feelgoods.

  29. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    Joe – the target class you’re looking to name falls into two clear constituencies either side of the AGW acceptance boundary. As I’d agree with Barry’s suggestion above that undue offensiveness is counterproductive, I’d suggest the following:

    Flukers – to describe those who simply don’t get it even despite the obvious intensification of extreme weather events afflicting people within, or at one remove from, their social circle –
    – on grounds that they currently put those events down as being mere ‘flukes’, and the more the term Fluker can be brought into everyday conversation particularly as a part of friendly banter around them as extreme weather events multiply, the sooner they’ll get around to reconsidering their position.

    Lemmings – to describe those whose views follow fashion to the extent of acknowledging the climate threat as real but not that significant – and who would tend to accept action on climate to the extent of:
    “Low Emissions Moderation, Maybe – as long as those I consider celebrities say so.”

    The ‘Lemmings’ form a large group whose propensity for ‘following the crowd’ over the cliff – or even straight out to sea – makes them particularly dangerous to society if they are not properly identified and steered into appreciating matters of substance – rather than the mere narcissistic image-consciousness of conformism.

    I know neither ‘Flukers’ nor ‘Lemmings’ is a bird, but never having seen an Ostrich actually try to hide by burying its head, I suspect that natural selection has already killed off any bird dumb enough to be useful as representing either of these target constituencies.



  30. catman306 says:

    Climate vultures thrive on future death.

    Like the many terms for climate change, there’s going to be plenty of terms for these dangerous deniers. With so many good ones in these comments, we’ll never agree on just one term. That’s because we see nuances of difference where the deniers see ideology.

  31. Merrelyn Emery says:

    While I appreciate the creativity and imagination shown in these comments, I can’t see the point of applying a label.

    This is not a homogeneous group as any survey, including my own, has shown. The inability to ‘get it’ is determined by several factors such as belief systems, basic scientific illiteracy, SES and source of information.

    The creativity would be better put to devising strategies to capitalize on the accelerating rate of major disasters around the world by tying the perceptions and experience of these to the basic science and solutions based on it, ME

  32. David B. Benson says:

    Climate orcs.

    Climate Nazgul is reserved for the Koch brothers.

  33. lizardo says:

    I like Climate Cuckoos and Climate Vultures both
    for different types

    Climate snoozers is not bad especially with those with whom it has resonance of “why England slept” and “asleep at the wheel/switch”

  34. Steve Bloom says:

    Eh, there’s more than one kind of denier. Add a modifier if you must, but keep the terminology simple. What all deniers have in common is the unwillingness to admit that quite bad things will happen given a continued lack of sufficient action. Ignoramuses might be good for people who literally hadn’t seen the evidence, but that’s not the case for the group in question. They’ve all seen it by now.

    David, I’m inspired by your example to see RP Jr. as the Mouth of Sauron. Thanks! :)

  35. David Smith says:


    Climate Drifters. Ones who are blowing through life, uncommitted. Not offensive, but descriptive

  36. David Smith says:

    CLIMATE CHALLENGED – These would be people who just don’t seem to have a place in their brain for the reality of it all.

  37. Mark says:

    Joe describes folks that probably have enough money to have an accountant, and who care about making their money grow. So they already know about financial idiocies (and strokes of genius). I suggest looking for a term that taps their pre-existing financial savvy biases.

    A few,

    CBMs (Climate Bernard Madroff)

    CFIs (Climate finance illiterate)

    CCCs (Climate credit creep)


    Another idea…. Climate Fool, Climate Simpleton, and Climate Dozer, from the old proverb:

    He who knows not and knows not he knows not: he is a fool – shun him.

    He who knows not and knows he knows not: he is simple – teach him.

    He who knows and knows not he knows: he is asleep – wake him.

    He who knows and knows he knows: he is wise – follow him.

  38. Ben Lieberman says:

    You could call them David Brooks. He’s not a denier, but he just does not seem to care a whole lot.

  39. Brooks Bridges says:

    I vote for Climate Ignorati.

    For 3 definitions See:

    I like definitions 1 and 3:

    1 “Elites who, despite their power, wealth, or influence, are prone to making serious errors when discussing science and other technical matters. They resort to magical thinking and scapegoating with alarming ease and can usually be found furiously adding fuel to moral panics and information cascades.

    For a given elite to be considered part of the ignorati, he must regularly provide opinions or report on matters he does not understand and has clearly made no attempt to understand. Due to the nature of their professions, journalists and politicians are usually ignorati.”

    3rd def:” a person or group that is willfully ignorant, or woefully uninformed and forces their ignorant views on others regardless of fact, inspire of evidence.”

    “in spite of evidence” makes much more sense but curiously when I googled “inspire of evidence” I found 10 or 15 samples, all reading better with “in spite”.

  40. Dave says:

    How about “Climate Buzzard.” Good parallelism with “Climate Hawk,” slightly comic, and indicates passive loitering and waiting for something to die.

  41. rvman says:

    I think lukewarmers beats all entries thus far.

    For what it’s worth:
    Koch addict enablers

  42. David B. Benson says:

    Yes, climate ignorati is appropriate for many. Not all I fear.

  43. amira says:

    I’m rather tired of suffering these fools politely. How about Clidiots (climate idiots)?

  44. Artful Dodger says:

    Skeptosaurus Wrecks!

  45. Edith Wiethorn says:

    I agree with Barry’s premise about context & I like “Fiddlers” because of the precedent of Nero fiddling while Rome burned & the fact that all the unaware are very busy with the stuff in their foreground & often feel very productive.

  46. Brooks Bridges says:

    You’re right. Just as studies show psychopaths’ brains show no response when shown violence in films, I think certain people are incapable of becoming concerned about anything that gets in the way of making money, e.g, Kochs. But I don’t think Climate psychopaths would fly.

  47. “Climate victims”

    That is how they are all going to see themselves soon enough.


    Their refrain will be that someone just “Should Have Let Us Know Sooner!”

  48. Peter Cummins says:

    De-eskayers:people who repudiate facts that challenge their overwhelmingly external locus of control.

  49. Don Lindsay says:

    One politician referred to them as “lemon suckers”, because they puckered at the thought of taking expensive action.

  50. Paul magnus says:

    Climate Clueless.
    Wind Bags.

  51. “Beam Me Up Scotty” (No. 4 above) mentioned “climate change enablers”. I would cast a vote for that, although “warming enablers” trips off the tongue better. Actually, I kind of like “lukewarmers” too. They are lukewarm on any action, and they probably think that the potential warming is just lukewarm. Both are accurate terms but not so pejorative that they would automatically drive people away.

  52. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Climate Quislings, Cowards or Compradores come to mind. But they are mostly in reality just different types of denialist. Certainly one may be so stupid and ignorant as to not appreciate that your own grandchildren are being sentenced to Hell, but these are supposedly the elites in our wonderful market capitalist paradises. They ought to know better, and be up in arms, but ‘rocking the boat’ gets you quickly ejected from ‘the gravy train’. Still, looking at politics and the media in this country it is hard to think of any intellectual or moral paragons, any at all. Lots of sell-outs, however.

  53. prokaryotes says:

    Climate Monkey for the people who just don’t get it.

    Climate Terrorist for people like David Koch or Rex Tillerson.

  54. Artful Dodger says:

    How about ‘Climate Dodos’?

    All three are from N.Z. and equally extinct!

  55. Peter Mizla says:

    Went to my HOA meeting Wednesday night. The Treasurer is a smug dope.He recently purchased the ultimate vehicle the corporate mobsters enjoy -a New BMW- he scoffed at climate scientists, said there was ‘no consensus’, sneered at Jim Hansen (who he has never heard of) At the close of the meeting I told him the last time C02 levels where this high- 17 million years ago the was no ice in Greenland or the Arctic, year round, sea levels where 30 meters higher- and vast parts of the interior USA was a desert. He then backed away.

    Went to the health club the next day. Proudly wearing my T shirt- I asked one of patrons if he knew what it meant- ‘No’ he said when I tried to explain- he interrupted & said ‘ we have no problem’ the ‘earth would balance everything out’.

    From my own probing of people into their knowledge of climate change- we are in deeper trouble then I ever thought. I feel like a climate scientist compared to the vast majority of the public.

    At this point- if we are ‘lucky’ we will avoid the ‘Venus syndrome’ but there will still be a 4-5 degree rise C in global temperatures by perhaps as early as 2060- which will be a hybrid of the two scenarios above.

    Anyway you cut it we are stuffed. Population will decline as vast parts of the globe will become windswept dust-bowls.

  56. Raul M. says:

    comfortateers and enablers.
    Excluding ideas etc. that are uncomfortable is high on the list of best practices and those who work to enable such.

  57. Ricki (Aust) says:

    I like cluggles (climate muggles).

  58. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    Chamberlains (Arthur Neville)
    Fossil fuel appeasers

    Mulga’s Quisling seems appropriate too. Promise one thing; then do whatever the owners of the country want.

  59. Tom says:

    Climate Frogs, in reference to the urban myth about frogs and slowly heated water.

  60. BBHY says:

    Climate Lethargists,

  61. Leif says:

    No action is the expensive action.

  62. Paul Baer says:

    On the assumption that the ones we care most about are people we’d actually like to talk to and try to convince, nothing perjorative is the least bit constructive. I thought “climate liberals” had some promise, – “free spending with carbon” (in the US sense of liberal) and “laizzes faire with carbon” in the European sense.

    The other one that I thought made sense was “climate doves” – being a dove is a respectable political position as it’s defined on most issues.

  63. Brooks Bridges says:


    Those whose thoughts and actions not only endeavor to place humans above nature, but who also act as if humans are immune to the man-made environmental destruction of nature.

    Also from Urban Dictionary. I know, doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue but I admire the creativity and love the definition.

  64. Cynthia says:

    I know what I would call them: BRAIN DEAD!

  65. Cynthia says:

    I like what Joe often calls them… climate zombies.

    Or maybe some reference to Exxon Mobile? Exxon pets, or something?

  66. Anna Haynesa says:

    Carbon spendthrifts?

    (it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue though)

  67. Anna Haynesa says:

    +1 Edith, +1 fiddlers

    (It’s kind of hard on violinists, but that’s how it goes…)

  68. David B. Benson says:


  69. Gingerbaker says:

    Mass murderers. Let’s be honest.

  70. Blair says:

    I’m not a fan of anything with the word climate. Sure we in the environmental community understand the connection between carbon and climate. But the other 90% either don’t get the connection or deny the connection.

    The name should put the focus on carbon, as reducing carbon pollution is the action we want and the message we need to focus on.

  71. John says:

    I like to refer to them as the “Proud Idiots”.
    They take pride in their own ignorance which enables them to relate to their targeted audience.

  72. Artful Dodger says:

    ha! come4tears!

  73. Artful Dodger says:

    old white men typically aren’t Harry Potter fans. Young people already get climate change, it’s their lives which will be affected.

  74. Artful Dodger says:

    I like it! How about “Carbonaceous Shills”?
    … a play on the Oil “Shale”, which we must work to keep in the ground.

  75. stu says:

    Well, many countries outlaw Holocaust denial, or genocide denial:

    But given the importance of climate change and the humanitarian catastrophe it will create, it seems to me to be a worse crime to deny climate change given the impact it has on avoiding it, than denying past-events.

    So my vote for such a person is simply “criminal” or.. as Al Gore calls it “‘transgenerational’ criminal”.

  76. Aubrey Enoch says:

    GOBYS, after the Sand Goby the regularly eats it’s offspring.

  77. Jameson Quinn says:

    I still like birds, and “ostrich” is perfect for the willfully ignorant, but I can’t help but agree that “lemmings” is the best word for the merely stupid. Also, it helps remind us of the far-too-neglected issue of population.

  78. Erica says:

    How about “the minority”?

    83% of Americans believe in global warming, according to the September 2011 Reuters/Ipsos poll.

  79. Danny says:

    Since the end result is a much hotter planet, I would call them “hot heads.”

    Since the excessive use of carbon based fuels in the problem, they could also be called “carboncles.”

  80. otter17 says:

    In my own jargon, I keep it simple and use the term “the uninformed”. “The oblivious” may be another simple term.

    In reference to Orwell’s 1984, maybe “proles” would work, but that may be a bit too contentious and/or esoteric.

  81. EDpeak says:

    I’m not sure I buy that they “don’t get it” since they “get” what the experts and advisers around them say. But that quibble aside, yes, there is a particular type of leader/adviser who is not flat-Earther but don’t get it: they WOULD get it if they put Science First.

    They are:

    Science Isn’t First (SIFies, rhymes with sissies; mean to use this in an anti-homnophobic sense, though realize the very term has been used in homophobic or gender dictatorial kind of way as in Gov Arnold’s “sissy men” and “girly men” which tone we do NOT want to reproduce…but maybe SIFies might work?)


    Scientific Reality Ain’t Paramount (SRAPs)

    and other variant acronyms which better wordsmiths than I could make into silly or embarrassing sounding ones which basically say: science/facts aren’t what’s most important to them.

  82. Karen in SF says:

    How about DOILs? Dangerously optimistic ignorant leaders? BIG DOIL, they are as a group. (“DUH” also comes to mind – I dunno; dangerously uninformed humans?, but I don’t believe you want to denigrate these people, do you? Some are well-intentioned and could be on our side, unlike big oil or Harvey Wasserman’s King CONG (coal, oil, nukes &gas)

  83. Dave says:

    I quite like “climate doubter” as it suggests someone who is uncertain and therefore able to be persuaded.

  84. Anna Haynesa says:

    The appropriate term does depend, of course, on the degree to which they’re acting in good faith. (If they are in fact persuadable, “climate doubters” is best.)

  85. Did anyone say Climate Ostriches yet? If we’re Hawks, because we’ve got the 20,000 foot view and are scoping out the land constantly, they’re Ostriches because they’ve got their heads in the sand–metaphorically of course, because actual ostriches don’t ever do anything so stupid.

  86. I like Climate Blind. Nice.

  87. John McClure says:

    I like possibilities for these:
    1. “Sees No Evil Crowd”
    2. “Climate Gamblers”
    3. “Frackheads”
    4. “Carbon Addicts” (portmanteau: Carbaddicts)

    I agree that somothing like “sociopaths” just won’t fly, but I sure like to think it.

  88. Mark Harrigan says:

    How about just “criminally negligent”?

    because 1o or 20 years from now we should sue those legislators who knew the science but deliberately chose to ignore it. There are already rumblings of cases being brought before the the international courts on behalf of some pacific island nations. They probably won’t fly since it’s hard to show that any “one” nation is solely culpable – but it’s interesting nevertheless

  89. Mark Harrigan says:

    If you want some thing “inoffensive” you could try

    The “Incognizanti”
    The “Climoptimists”
    The “Inactionists”
    The “Unilluminati”

    or a bit more pointed the “ignoranti”

    For a nice anagram of “climate dunce” you could have the “unclad emetic” which means a naked vomit inducing agent or,

    my favourite

    a “dementia relic”

    a very apt anagram of climate denier :)

  90. John McClure says:

    Hotheads (and cold hearts)

  91. Robert says:

    Anti-Reality Minority
    Science Rejectionists
    Surrender Monkeys
    Can’t Do’ers
    Climate DoDo’s