John Topping, 77, Dies; Early Advocate for Climate Action

John Topping, 77, Dies; Early Advocate for Climate Action

In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shared the Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore.

John Carruthers Topping Jr. was born on April 18, 1943, in Wilkinsburg, Pa., to John and Barbara Anne (Murray) Topping. His father was in the Air Force, and he had a peripatetic childhood that took the family to Scotland, Colorado, Germany, Maine, Japan and Massachusetts.

He graduated from Dartmouth in 1964 with a bachelor’s degree in international relations and earned a law degree from Yale University in 1967.

After serving in the Air Force as a legal officer in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, he entered the federal government, working to promote minority-owned businesses at the Advisory Council on Minority Business Enterprise and the Office of Minority Business Enterprise, part of the Department of Commerce, during the presidency of Richard M. Nixon.

Mr. Topping would later join the Reagan administration, first at the presidential personnel office and then at the Environmental Protection Agency, where he served from 1982 until 1986, including two years as staff director of the Office of Air and Radiation. During his time at the agency, he threw himself into such efforts as removing lead from gasoline and establishing standards for particulate air pollution, as well as studying the risks of secondhand smoke.

He married Linda Thompson in 1974. They divorced in 2000. In addition to his daughter Elizabeth, he is survived by a brother, Dr. Trexler Topping; a son, John C. Topping III; another daughter, Alexandra Van Beek; and six grandchildren.

“He saw solutions where other people just saw a problem,” his ex-wife, Linda Thompson Gonzalez, who last year was a candidate for the Florida House of Representatives, said in an interview. She recalled that through the years, Mr. Topping was “distraught” over the lack of progress on climate change “when the solutions are out there, right in front of you, and you fail to do the right thing.” But when he did face those frustrations, he would “take out his yellow pad,” she said. “He expressed his frustration by trying to come up with a solution and a compelling response.”

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