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Thursday, August 21, 2014

This Is How Scientists Feel - Scared

from "Is This How You Feel?" July 2014

The scientists

What follows are the words of real scientists. Researchers who understand climate change.

Kevin Walsh
Associate Professor and Reader, School of Earth Sciences
University of Melbourne

I wish that climate change were not real.

This seems like a strange thing for a climate scientist to say, but it’s true.
If climate change were not real, we would not have to be concerned about it. We wouldn’t have to worry about the future of our water resources, already strained by over population. We wouldn’t have to worry about sea level rise increasing the flooding of our coastal cities and of low–lying, densely–populated areas of poor countries. Above all, we wouldn’t have to worry about climate change being yet another source of conflict in an already tense world.

Life would be so much simpler if climate change didn’t exist. But as scientists, we don’t have the luxury of pretending.

Kevin Walsh
Associate Professor and Reader
School of Earth Sciences
University of Melbourne

Anthony Richardson
Climate Change Ecologist
The University of Queensland
How climate change makes me feel.

I feel a maelstrom of emotions

I am exasperated. Exasperated no one is listening.
I am frustrated. Frustrated we are not solving the problem.
I am anxious. Anxious that we start acting now.
I am perplexed. Perplexed that the urgency is not appreciated.
I am dumbfounded. Dumbfounded by our inaction.
I am distressed. Distressed we are changing our planet.
I am upset. Upset for what our inaction will mean for all life.
I am annoyed. Annoyed with the media’s portrayal of the science.
I am angry. Angry that vested interests bias the debate.
I am infuriated. Infuriated we are destroying our planet.

But most of all I am apprehensive. Apprehensive about our children’s future.

Associate Professor
Anthony J. Richardson
Climate Change Ecologist

Dr Ailie Gallant
School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment
Monash University

Dear Joe,

I feel nervous. I get worried and anxious, but also a little curious. The curiosity is a strange, paradoxical feeling that I sometimes feel guilty about. After all, this is the future of the people I love.

I get frustrated a lot; by the knowns, the unknowns, and the lack of action. I get angry at the invalid opinions that are all-pervasive in this age of indiscriminant information, where evidence seems to play second fiddle to whomever can shout the loudest. I often feel like shouting…

But would that really help? I feel like they don’t listen anyway. After all, we’ve been shouting for years.

I hate feeling helpless. I’m ashamed to say that, sometimes, my frustration leads to apathy. I hate feeling apathetic.

But sometimes I read things, or see things, from individuals, from communities like ‘1 million solar panels installed in Australian homes”, and optimism tickles.

I will keep doing my work. I will keep shouting in my own little way. I will be optimistic that we will do something about this, collectively. I live in hope that the climate changes on the graphs that I stare into every day wont be as bad as my data tells me, because we worked together to find a solution. All I can hope is that people share my optimism and convert it into Action.

Kind Regards,

Dr Ailie Gallant
School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment
Monash University.

Professor Andrew Pitman
Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science
Dear Jo,

You ask me how climate change makes me feel.

I do not have a single answer.

In equal measure, climate change makes me feel frustrates that my community cannot overcome ignorance and apathy. I feel scared that I cannot trigger action. I feel scared about what the future brings. But most of all, to be honest, I feel challenged by the science, I feel invigorated by how bright my group is and I feel very lucky that each day brings new challenges to confront and sometimes to overcome.

A.J. Pitman

Professor, Climate Science at UNSW.

Dr Sarah Perkins
Climate Scientist, Extreme Events Specialist
University of New South Wales.
My Dear Friend,

For sometime now I’ve been terribly worried. I wish I didn’t have to acknowledge it, but everything I have feared is happening. I used to think I was paranoid, but it’s true. She’s slipping away from us. She’s been showing signs of acute illness for quite a while, but no one has really done anything. Her increased erratic behaviour is something I’ve especially noticed. Certain behaviours that were only rare occurrences are starting to occur more often, and with heightened anger. I’ve tried to highlight these changes time and time again, as well as their speed of increase, but no one has paid attention.

It almost seems everyone has been ignoring me completely, and I’m not sure why. Is it easier to pretend there’s no illness, hoping it will go away? Or because they’ve never had to live without her, so the thought of death is impossible? perhaps they cannot see they’ve done this to her. We all have.

To me this is all false logic. How can you ignore the severe sickness of someone you are so intricately connected to and dependent upon. How can you let your selfishness and greed take control, and not protect and nurture those who need it most? How can anyone not feel an overwhelming sense of care and responsibility when those so dear to us are so desperately ill? How can you push all this to the back of your mind? This is something I will never understand. Perhaps I’m the odd one out, the anomaly of the human race. The one who cares enough, who has the compassion, to want to help make her better.

The thing is we can make her better!! If we work together, we can cure this terrible illness and restore her to her old self before we exploited her. But we must act quickly, we must act together. Time is ticking, and we need to act now.

Yours faithfully,

Dr Sarah Perkins

Climate Scientist, Extreme Events Specialist.

The University of New South Wales.

Emeritus Professor Tony McMichael
National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health
Australian National University, College of Medicine, Biology and Environment
Dear Joe

It’s hard to imagine that people are doing so much damage to the natural world. It’s sad when a society like ours can’t see further than its bank balance and stumbles blindly into a future when children won’t be able to enjoy the flowing rivers, mountain snow, coloured birds and bush animals. Don’t we have any responsibility for other creatures, forests and rivers? I’m rather ashamed of our behaviour.

It seems so silly to go on behaving like this – though, from hearing our politicians speak, it seems that making and consuming more and more is the point of life. Surely the dreadful heat we have suffered from in recent heatwaves, and the awful bushfires that have terrified rural communities in the past couple of years are telling us that something is going very wrong.

Scientist friends say it’s probably because we’re making the world hotter by adding ‘greenhouse gases’ into the air. So we are seriously harming the world around us and yet we understand how!

It’s really sad that some of our local children seem quite puzzled and worried by what they see on TV bout this and hearing what adults say. I hope my family and our community can try and help solve these frightening problems.

Tony McMichael

Emeritus Professor, Australian National University

Associate Professor Katrin Meissner
Climate Change Research Centre, University of New South Wales
Knowing how much is at stake, knowing that I am one of the few people who understand the magnitude of the consequences and then realizing that most of the people around me are oblivious. Some of the people are not only oblivious, they also do not want to understand. They have made up their mind, maybe based on the opinion of someone they trust, someone in their family, or a friend, maybe based on a political conviction, but certainly not based on facts.

It makes me feel sick. Looking at my children and realizing that they won't have the same quality of life we had. Far from it. That they will live in a world facing severe water and food shortages, a world marked by wars caused by the consequences of climate change.

It makes me feel sad. And it scares me. It scares me more than anything else. I see a group of people sitting in a boat, happily waving, taking pictures on the way, not knowing that this boat is floating right into a powerful and deadly waterfall. It is still time to pull out  of the stream. We might lose some boat equipment but we might be able to save the people in the boat. But no one acts.
Time is running out.

Associate Professor Katrin Meissner
ARC Future Fellow

Professor Lesley Hughes
Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University
Founding Member of the Australian Climate Council
I became a professional biologist because I just loved animals - watching them, catching them, studying them. I was the kid whose bedroom was full of jars and boxes of things that crawled and slithered and hopped. The notion that I could actually be paid for doing this, as an adult, was truly wonderful.

But where to for our species in the future? Our biodiversity is our life support system, each species a precious support system, each species a precious, irreplaceable heritage item. We have harvested and cleared and plundered and spoiled. Every year our natural capital declines a bit more as we squander our heritage and rob our descendants.

And now we have this new threat, likely to be the biggest one of all.

Climate change is likely to become the biggest species killer ever, impoverishing our planet and our race.

We have so much to lose.

Prof. Lesley Hughes

Dr Alex Sen Gupta
Climate Change Research Centre, University of New South Wales
How does it make me feel?
I feel frustrated. The scientific evidence is overwhelming. We know what's going on, we know why it's happening, we know how serious things are going to get and still after so many years, we are still doing practically nothing to stop it.

I feel betrayed by our leaders who show no leadership and who place ideology above evidence, willing to say anything to peddle their agendas - leaders who are at best negligent and at worst complicit in allowing this to happen with full knowledge of likely consequences. I feel bemused. That scientists who have spent years or decades dedicated to understanding how it all works are given the same credibility as poleticians, [sic] media commentators and industry spokes people with obvious vested interests and whose only credential is their ability to read discredited blogs.

I feel concerned that unmitigated our inaction will cause terrible suffering to those least able to cope with change and that within my lifetime many of the places that make this planet so special - the snows on Kilimanjaro, the Great Barrier Reef, even the ice covered Arctic will be degraded beyond recognition - our legacy to the next generation.

I also feel a glimmer of hope. China and the USA are starting to move in the right direction and beginning to show some global leadership on this issue, even if Australia is backtracking again to a position of laggard and obstructionist.

Alex Sen Gupta
Senior Lecturer (Oceanography)
Climate Change Research Centre
University of New South Wales

Professor Brendan Mackey
Director Of Griffith Climate Change Response Program
I was unable to receive a hand written letter from Professor Mackey, but he kindly contributed the typed copy above.
Dear Earth,

Just a quick note to say thanks so much for the last 4 billion years or so. It's been great! The planetary life support systems worked really well, the whole biological evolution thing was a nice surprise and meant that humans got to come into being and I got to exist!

I’m really sorry about the last couple of 100 years – we’ve really stuffed things up haven’t we! I though we climate scientist might be able to save the day but alas no one really took as seriously. Everyone wants to keep opening new coal mines and for some reason that escapes me are happy to ignore the fact that natural gas is a fossil fuel. Well, no one can say we didn’t try!

You’re probably quietly happy that “peak human” time has come and gone and it’s kind of all downhill got us now, though I guess you’re more than a bit miffed at what we’ve done to your lovely ecosystem (the forests and corals were a really nice touch by the way) and sorry again for the tigers, sharks etc.

In case you were wondering, our modeling suggests that your global biogeochemical cycles (especially the carbon one) should reach a new dynamic equilibrium in about 100,000 years or so. I guess it will be a bit of a rocky road until then but, oh well, no one said the universe was meant to be stable!

All the best and do try and maintain that “can do” attitude we love so much.

Prof Brendan G. Mackey, PhD

30 July 2014

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