I’ve been thinking of putting a blog together for sometime now, to discuss important points about climate science that everyone should be aware of, before they make up their mind on which side of the fence they sit on.
And to show the world that climate scientists are normal people too.
Initially, way back when blogs first came out, I didn’t really see much point to them – why would complete strangers want to read about other complete stranger’s ramblings, whether they be personal, about their work, or any other reason? But as time has gone on I now see their worth – whether it be comical blogs that I mull over while drinking my morning coffee, friends’ travel blogs full of beautiful pictures and life-changing anecdotes, blogs that review anything from restaurants to products to political policies, or someone trying to shed light on the innards of their profession, particularly one that’s quite topical.
And so, here I am.
To the average person, I am, well, another average person. To look at me you wouldn’t know that I’m a climate scientist. In fact, as I type this I am on my regular train home, being a regular commuter just like all the other regulars around me. I have normal-like hobbies that include things like running, sleeping, cooking, and indulging my taste buds in chocolate and wine a little too often.
I live in a normal house and have a normal relationship with my normal boyfriend, and enjoy all the normal past times, such as going to the movies, spending time with friends, letting my hair down for a bit of crazy at music festivals, and, as what generally comes with the territory of being female, just a touch shopping.
However, when I tell people I’m a climate scientist, I get quite a mixed bag of reactions.
One of the most popular, particularly when I was doing my PhD, was “Oh! You’re going to be a weather girl!” O.K., the first, maybe, 5 times this was funny but it got old quite quickly (please don’t be fooled by my twitter avatar – that is all just poking fun at those who regularly throw that line at me). Plus, everyone who said this line to me always thought they were the first to do so. There is also an important difference between weather and climate (which I’m sure I’ll get to at some point) and I’ve made this clear to pretty much everyone who has given me this line (as well as drumming it into my first year students).
Another standard response is “So is it real? Is climate change real?” or “do you think we’re doing enough?” These I can handle, as people are showing interest in, whether us climate scientists like it or not, quite a topical and social issue.
But it’s when comments get nasty that I start to get a little cheesed off. Responses such as “It’s all a hoax” or “you’re in it just to make money”, and “you scientists have got no idea what you’re on about” really start to get to me.
Recently, I contributed to a piece for The Conversation with a colleague that saw quite personal comments written about our lifestyles – that we swanned around the world flying first class, saw us drive European cars to and from work every day and that all the money we earned saw us buy expensive new toys, like the latest ipad (for the record I have NEVER flown first class, I share a non-European car with my boyfriend who technically owns it, and don’t own an ipad). It was this particular comment that made me think enough is enough. And what’s worse, is that this comment was still considered rather tame, in terms of some of the comments, threats and bombardments of insults some climate scientists get due to presenting the facts of their research.
I know quite a few that receive death threats.
Now I know that the state of our climate is more than just a scientific issue and has massive social ramifications - a lot of people view that their way of life will be threatened should we try to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions (will probably cover this at some point too). But it never stops baffling me that comments towards us are just that – personal, rude, and sometimes frightening. I have heard that some people are paid to do such things and I do wonder how they sleep at night.
What if it was their family that was threatened?
It also baffles me that people think where in it for the financial gain. Now most climate scientists are really quite intelligent (even if I do say so myself) and, should they have chosen to, could have become lawyers or actuaries or investment bankers and make 10x more per annum than their current salary. Senior project managers make more money than professors (I’m not saying they don’t work hard for ze monies, but if we use hard work as a metric, there is some serious financial imbalance here). But instead, climate scientists have chosen to dedicate their life to, not only researching our impacts on the global climate, but also presenting and defending those facts so that we have a chance to correct our ways and try to preserve the state of our planet as much as possible.
That doesn’t sound like a money-grabbing troll to me.
Everyone seems to have an opinion on climate change (probably another topic I’ll cover at some point), but why all the judgment and hate on the climate scientists?
While I sit here typing on my regular commute, I wonder if I wore a tag that said “I’m a climate scientist” on it, would people treat me any differently? Would the other regulars around me snare? Shake their heads? Call me a liar?
Or is it only when we get up in the public arena, defending the facts, debunking the myths, being quite clear on what we do know about our effects on the climate, that people start to judge us?
If you’re reading this on your daily commute, have a look around…..can YOU pick out a potential climate scientist? What do you think they look like? Two heads? With horns? Or a middle aged bald man with thick-rimmed glasses who avoids human interaction at any cost? How about a wild-eyed scientist like “Doc” Emmett Brown?
I assure you, I am none of those things.
I am that normal girl, sitting in the corner, with her headphones in, staring at a blank word document on her laptop. Or if it’s Friday, dozing quietly while pretending to do work.
These days, I’ve learned to try to avoid as much as possible, telling people what I do for a living when they ask. I skirt around the question saying that “I’m a scientist” or “I work at a university” or “I do research”. Sometimes this will suffice, but generally they want to know more. In these cases the words “climate scientist” eventually leave my lips, at which time I brace myself for the impending impact.
All is well when they say things like “WOW! What an interesting job” or “Jeez you guys have done some interesting work”, and I let out a long, huge, sigh of relief (in my head). But it’s the opposite when I get “really?! Even though climate change doesn’t exist?!” or “if it were real the government would be doing something about it”, “the science is wrong”, “you guys don’t know what you’re going on about”, and, as if my profession was a religion, “I don’t believe in climate change”. Now I love my job, but these comments can be quite soul crushing (particularly when attached with a nasty snare, personal attack and a look of pure evil. And yes, this DOES happen), and even though they occur quite often, I am always at a loss at how to deal with them.
Which brings me to this blog.
Over the next, erm, well, however long, I hope to show you that climate science is not some hocus-pocus voodoo black magic full-of-guess-work type stuff, and show you that us climate scientists are (sometimes mildly funny) humans too!