If you had told me in January of 2017 that I’d be traveling to Bonn, Germany later in the year to witness world discussions on climate action, I would not have believed you. You see, at that time, I had yet to travel outside of the United States because I was terrified of flying over the big, blue ocean! Oh I had dreams to travel abroad, but I’d never acted upon them because of my fear.
In my ECCF post in May, I discussed my concern about the politicization of scientists and the perception of that amongst conservatives and the general public. Recent papers add to my concern that the perception of scientists has become politicized, and will continue to be so, particularly when viewed through the lense of news media and social media. The concern over politicization brought the following question to mind.
Coral reefs often go unnoticed because they’re underwater; but even though we don’t regularly pay much attention to them, they’re an extremely important part of our everyday lives. Coral reefs have been estimated to provide support for over a quarter of all marine species and this extreme biodiversity makes them a frequent source of discovery for new medicines that can help fight cancer and other diseases. They also protect our coastlines from storm surges, and provide millions of individuals with a source food and income.
Looking back over the last ~10 years, it’s been a joy to be a scientist. I get to explore questions of interest to me and help climate science be useable. Scientific communities are critical to society, so it’s important that they be trusted. It’s an interesting time to be involved in the study of climate, particularly from my perspective. I happen to be something most might think a contradiction. I am a climatologist, but I am also politically conservative. I have some remarks from my (sometimes awkward) perspective.
“Science” is a word that means many things to many people. If you were to ask a practicing scientist how they define science, you might receive one of myriad responses. How each of us conceptualizes science may be unique, but most scientists recognize a shared set of methods and a core of objectives, analytical, and empirical values that unify our diverse fields.
Many of us have taken up the noble cause of communicating our science to nonscientists. Casting ourselves as the heroes, it’s important to remember, however, that even the best of intentions sometimes have a way of resulting in unintended consequences. In the original Star Trek, a young Captain Kirk of the USS Enterprise rescues a ship full of super-humans in suspended animation with their life-support on the verge of failure. In return for his good deed, Khan Noonien Signh and the other superhumans whose lives he saved turned out to be one of the Enterprise’s most dangerous adversaries.
As March comes to a close, we have once again celebrated the many contributions of women to society. For many of us conducting research at the Climate Science Centers and partner institutions, women who have made tremendous strides in our various scientific fields like Marie Curie, Rachel Carson and Jane Goodall, come to mind.
One of the big challenges with communicating climate change is the perception that the impacts will be far into the future or will affect someone else. These perceptions make it very easy to resist action to mitigate potential future impacts because there are a lot more pressing issues closer to home.