To the Daily Sun,
It takes a lot to get me angry. For years I tolerated slanders against my profession because I thought that taunters go away if you ignore them. I laughed at ludicrous remarks by manipulators trying to rewrite reality. I shrugged off insulting comments and inferences, knowing they had no truth in them. But this year, this election cycle, has shown me the error of my ways. Silent tolerance gives free reign to the worst elements of society and, when such of these vie for the highest office in our country, even the reticent must shout in protest. This is me, shouting.
I am a scientist. I study climate. I do not make riches from this. I don't expect to make $100,000 a year before I retiree. For five years after my Ph.D., I earned well below the poverty line as an employed faculty member teaching four courses a year at a university. I have many colleagues with financial stories similar to mine. The less stubborn ones gave up on science and went into business. Many of my associates who stayed in science careers ended up in better paying administrative positions, still linked to research but no longer with time to do it themselves.
Science is a demanding, unforgiving career in many ways. I fall asleep every night with my fingers on the computer keyboard. My workday is essentially the same length as my waking hours. Many of my colleagues respond to my emails about work when I send them at 11 p.m. We are not doing this to perpetuate a hoax. It is the reality of our lives as research scientists and university teachers. We work hard. We do good work. We are closely scrutinized for professionalism and honesty at every step along the way.
So, when I say that climate change is happening now, faster than it has ever changed before, I say so because I profoundly understand this as a reality of our modern world. I don't just study climate; I study paleoclimate. I know what rapid climate change looks like when it is caused by natural factors. It does not change the pH of the oceans within a decade. It does not create an ice-free Arctic Ocean in a few decades. It does not melt away mountain glaciers that have been there since the last ice age. These changes are happening and they are not part of any natural climate pattern or cycle. The climate science community, composed of people like me who have stuck with our careers despite the long hours, the contempt of our discipline by Congress, the absolutely vicious attacks on character by the dogmatic fringe; this community is now collectively shouting to anyone who will listen: Alert! Take precautions!
Which of the presidential candidates are listening? The democrats are. Both candidates have detailed descriptions of how they plan to tackle climate change issues related to the economy and international security. Given all of the changes that Bernie Sanders is proposing, though, I just can't see him having the time and energy to push a climate response agenda across the dividing aisle of Congress.
Don't get me wrong, I agree with much of what Sanders has to say. But my primary concern is climate, because of what I see on the horizon. I've invested my life's work into understanding how climate affects this world and the consequences of rapid climate change. For my own sanity, I need a president who has time to deal with this issue as a high priority. From my perspective, that would be Hilary Clinton.
- Category: Letters
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