Scientists’ Emotional Response to Environmental Decline

There was a pretty good piece on Grist about scientists’ emotional response to environmental decline a few weeks ago, focusing largely on the remarkable Camille Parmesan, whom I have met briefly on a few occasions, and who impressed me immensely each time.

It turns out that Judith Curry has already responded to this, and her suggestion is characteristically brilliant.

I feel your pain. Circa 2007 I felt the same way you did, and ran around turning off lights and unplugging things, feeling really uncomfortable about the carbon footprint of myself and my surroundings. But then I woke up as a scientist and realized that my belief in dangerous anthropogenic climate change was second order belief – based on the IPCC consensus. That is, I believed in the consensus without having done a real detailed assessment of my own. Then when climategate triggered me to closely examine everything, notably the IPCC’s attribution argument, I realized that the fingerprints were ‘muddy’, the climate models are running too hot, the forcing data is uncertain, no account is made for multidecadal and longer internal variability, and they have no explanation for the warming 1910-1940, the cooling 1940-1976, and the hiatus since 1998. Once you raise questions about 20th century attribution, then your angst about impacts that you think are attributable to AGW becomes much less justified.

Paraphrasing a bit, if reality is getting you down, try fantasy.

But as remarkable advice goes, that’s been trumped recently by advice from a mental health professional appearing at the Smithsonian Magazine:

Lise Van Susteren, a psychiatrist, has offered some tips on how to care for yourself when feeling climate change burn out. They include practical advice for anytime—exercise, spend time outside, …

Got that? Depressed about the state of the natural environment? Go spend more time in it!

I suppose that makes sense. Commune with what’s left of Nature before it disappears altogether. I feel better already.

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