Scientists Go Beyond Science to Explain Their Climate Terror

Denis Burdin/Shutterstock.com

Scientists are used to talking about climate change in facts and figures, a discussion framed around parts-per-million concentrations of carbon dioxide, millimeters of sea-level rise, and degrees of global temperatures.

Joe Duggan wants them to talk about their feelings.

Duggan, a masters of science communication student at the Australian National University, has set up a website hosting handwritten letters in which scientists express their fear, frustration, distress, and confusion about the growing threat of climate change and the politicization of the issue. Take this letter from Andrew Pitman, who directs the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science at the University of New South Wales:

"In equal measure, climate change makes me feel frustrated 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."

In another letter, University of Melbourne professor Kevin Walsh says, "I wish that climate change were not real." If it weren't real, he writes, people wouldn't have to be concerned about flooding from sea-level rise, the threat of climate-linked conflicts, or dwindling clean-water sources.

"Life would be so much simpler if climate change didn't exist. But as scientists, we don't have the luxury of pretending," Walsh's letter concludes.

Duggan said the project is meant to engage the broader public, who despite seeing facts about climate change can feel "apathetic" or simply overwhelmed by the volume of data. He thought that letting experts use an emotional pitch might help the layperson connect with their work.

"The scientists that have penned letters for this project are scared, angry, anxious, and at times hopeful and optimistic," he said in an email. "These are real feelings that everyone has experienced in their lives. But the scientists aren't feeling this way about an anniversary or a pressing deadline. They're feeling this way about the fate of our planet."

Duggan said the experts he's reached out to have expressed "relief" at being able to express their emotions and he's even starting hearing from more researchers who want to participate. He's also been getting responses from the general public on his website and through Twitter.

Given that the Australian Parliament and prime minister last month repealed the nation's carbon tax, Duggan said he's aware of the struggles in convincing the public of the threat of climate change. And while he's not saying that the emotional pitch is the only way to reach a mass audience, he thinks it's an avenue worth exploring.

"It is my belief that we need to fight this battle on a number of fronts," Duggan said. "So many people are apathetic towards climate change; they're aware of its existence but they just can't connect to it."

"If people can't connect with the statistics and data, maybe they can connect with someone who understands that data."

(Image via Denis Burdin/Shutterstock.com)

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.