In a recent EOS (newletter of the American Geophysical Union), Alan Betts has some advice
Earth scientists face a profound ethical challenge. Humanity is an integral part of the Earth’s ecosystem, but the waste from our industrial society is now driving rapid global climate change. What is our responsibility as a community of scientists? Is it simply to follow tradition and explore and discuss in our own world, largely isolated from the broader community, the many interesting facets and complexities of the transformation of the Earth’s climate system and then to publish our results in our private jargon in copyrighted journals that are not freely available to the public that is funding us? Surely this is for us just “business as usual,” an integral part of the problem, not the solution.Now Eli hates to bring this up, but it is not so far from what Greg Craven said somewhat more energetically at the last AGU Conference, for which all the kool kids dumped on him for not being kool. Read his open letter about why he was juuuuuust a bit strong. The scariest part was
I suggest it is time to reconsider our responsibilities to society and to the Earth. Humanity will be unable to deal with climate change, in terms of both mitigation and adaptation, until a broad spectrum of society is fluent in discussing the issues and the choices we face. Changing the direction of our global society from its present unsustainable path is a moral and ethical
challenge as well as a scientific one.
However, broad understanding of the limits imposed by the Earth system is essential. Clear, open communication and discussion are needed at all levels of society, along with research directed at clarifying the limits for decision makers in local communities. The contribution of science, honest communication of the state of knowledge, is needed to inform and counter the
simplistic ideologies that are common in politics. I conclude that scientists need to
become more deeply embedded in society.
We all face the essential task of reducing human impacts on the Earth system
the most depressing
It might surprise, and hopefully disturb you, to hear that in my short time at AGU, I discovered four scientists who are already creating some form of survival retreat for their family, and they told me there are many more. But they are all too scared of being ostracized in the scientific community if they speak of it. It struck me that they aren’t even “in the closet” yet. They still think they are isolated freaks of nature, ashamed to share what they truly feel.Being in the closet would be a positive step for them!
But Willie Soon is doing well, just as Eli pointed out years ago
What I ask of the scientists is simple, easy, and does not threaten the purity of the scientific endeavor. I ask only that each scientist recognize that we each wear multiple hats in our lives, and that it is a tragic mistake to insist on wearing exclusively your scientist hat when addressing the public. Instead, go out and tell the public in any forum you can find: “As a scientist, here is what I know. As a citizen, here are my concerns, and my thoughts on what we should do. And as a father, a mother, a grandparent, here are my fears, even my terrors, and my backup plans to safeguard my family.”
This idea has been and clearly still is anathema to the traditional scientific sensibilities, of eschewing any expression of the impact of their knowledge on themselves as people, as citizens, as fathers and mothers. Of actually speaking on policy decisions as a citizen. I am completely befuddled as to why that right–exercised by every other, equally unqualified citizen–is voluntarily surrendered by those who know best what is likely to happen in the physical world. . . .
I have come away from the meeting shaken to the core. Especially after seeing in the panel discussion that there is still absolutely no felt need to change how they operate, though such a small, easy, non-threatening change could turn the tide of the debate.
Instead, to my horror and dismay, what I saw was even the encouragement to hold the line harder, with the incredibly influential Michael Oppenheimer telling the audience to be sure they continue to assiduously stick to avoiding any discussions of policy.
To date, the scientific community has made the understandable but flawed assumption that providing the public with facts will result in the public making a rational decision. It boggles me that the scientific community, of all people, would disregard so completely the long-established finding of psychological research that people on the whole simply don’t make decisions rationally, as the divergence between public and scientific opinion demonstrably shows.So perhaps you can understand how deeply distressing it is to see the scientific community this late in the game doubling down on a strategy that has already been demonstrated to be woefully ineffective