Remembering our dear friend Andy Skuce

Long-time Skeptical Science contributor and our dear friend Andy Skuce passed away last Thursday, September 14th.  Andy was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2002, with a median life expectancy of six years, but lived another 15.  During that time he made invaluable contributions to Skeptical Science and to educating the public about climate change.  His final post Exit, Pursued by a Crabpublished just three weeks ago is an insightful personal reflection on his life, cancer, and climate change.

Andy first and foremost was a wonderful person.  Those of us who only knew him via the internet valued his wit, kindness, and insightful comments.  Those of us fortunate enough to meet Andy in person always enjoyed his company and his warm personality. When any of us traveled to his neck of the woods, Andy and his wife Annick always opened their home as generous hosts.


Andy sometimes described himself as a “recovering oilman,” having worked many years in oil and gas exploration. In a 2012 post, Andy wrote about the evolution of his views on climate change. Once Andy grasped the reality and urgency of the problem, he devoted much of his time to educating others about it, including some of his former oil industry colleagues. In some of his first posts at Skeptical Science, Andy debunked myths perpetrated by the influential Matt Ridley, and nicely summarized the findings of the Berkeley Earth team. 

As a resident of British Columbia, Andy was able to clearly explain the details of BC’s important carbon tax, and subsequently Alberta’s, both of which I found immensely helpful. Andy also utilized his oil & gas expertise to write informative posts about oil pipelines, Shell’s internal carbon pricing, BC’s estimate of fugitive methane emissions from the natural gas industry, and carbon capture & storage. He published these pieces not just on Skeptical Science, but also at his own blog Critical Angle, and on Corporate Knights.

Andy also made invaluable contributions to our Denial101x online course.  He recorded lectures debunking the myth that volcanoes emit more carbon dioxide than humans (which happened to be the subject of his very first Skeptical Science post 7 years ago) and that we’re just recovering from the Little Ice Age. Best of all, these videos forever preserve Andy’s memory, and his passionate efforts to educate people about climate change.

Andy was also a key contributor to the body of climate consensus research.  He was a co-author on both The Consensus Project and Consensus on Consensus papers.  When James Powell challenged that we had underestimated the consensus, Andy took the lead in testing that challenge.  Powell had claimed that our team’s methodology wouldn’t work in evaluating the expert consensus on plate tectonics. 

So that’s exactly what Andy did – he applied the methodology from our climate consensus paper to the theory of plate tectonics.  He read the abstracts of 331 papers from the journals Geology and the Journal of the Geological Society, checking whether they endorsed, rejected, or took no position on the theory of plate tectonics.  Andy found 29% of the papers’ abstracts included language that implicitly endorsed the theory of plate tectonics, while the rest took no position. In short, of the papers taking a position, he found 100% consensus on plate tectonics in this sample of the peer-reviewed literature.  Skuce et al. (2017) conclusively showed that our method worked.

Bear in mind, if we were only interested in getting the message of climate action across, we could have just accepted Powell’s claim that the climate consensus is 99.99%. But instead Andy led the charge in getting the right answer.  That shows great integrity, intellectual curiosity, and a willingness to put in the work to get the science right.

It’s also well worth noting that everything mentioned here, Andy did in the years beyond the life expectancy associated with his diagnosis.  He truly lived his life to the fullest all the way to the end. A great inspiration for us all.

And so we bid a final farewell to the wonderful Andy.  We’ll miss him, we’ll always remember him, and we’ll carry on in his memory.

 thanks Andy

Posted by dana1981 on Thursday, 21 September, 2017

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