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Climate Scientists Open Up

Written By: - Date published: 2:24 pm, October 1st, 2017 - 17 comments
Categories: Environment, global warming, science - Tags: , ,

The following partial transcript comes from interviews contained in this, unfortunately rather poorly put together youtube up-load.* For the sake of space, I’ve linked to the bios of each interviewee where possible. I’ll simply comment that the air of fatalism that comes across in the interviews chimes with every single conversation I’ve had with the smattering of marine biologists and biologists who I know and am in contact with.

Associate Professor Katrin Meissner (University of New South Wales)

I think for years I was really living in two different worlds. I was the scientist at work who was just objectively looking at numbers and then over years started to be more and more worried about my own life, but I separated it completely from my private life. I think that was a little bit of self protection. That doesn’t really work that well any more. In the past few years I carry this knowledge with me wherever I am.

Dr Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick (Research Fellow University of New South Wales)

I had conversation with my husband as these heatwaves were occurring in the summer going, are we doing the right thing? Is it right to bring kids into this world with me knowing how bad it’s going to be. There’s so much wrong with climate change, and there’s so many impacts that we’ve already looked into that I can’t change, that no-one can really change. It’s going to be bad. And it’s almost, why would you inflict that on someone?

I don’t like to scare people, but the future’s not looking very good.

Justin Ooger (Phd student University of Melbourne)

Whenever I talk to my wife about heatwaves, she gets scared of it. And unfortunately, I can’t really give her any good news. I’ve been married for about five years. Yes we want children. But we’re quite concerned about it, even scared of it. Our parents both want us to have children and there’s a lot of joy that comes with having children, but at the same time, knowing what’s coming with climate change, we’ve actually just been putting it off.

Professor David Griggs.

I think we’re heading to a future with a considerably greater warming than two degrees. And when the world doesn’t do something about it, that brings a whole range of emotions into play. I mean, depression is clearly one thing. You get days when you’re down because of what you know, and what you can see coming is not good. For people living in Australia, it means a lot of people will suffer and a lot of peope will die. The problem is, no-ones death certificate will say ‘this person died of climate change’, they’ll say they died of heat stress or cardiac arrest or they died (unclear) in a bush fire. (…) If I was living in Darwin or Brisbane, I’d be seriously thinking about moving.


We have thrown up the idea of, the potentially if the opportunities came up of moving to somewhere like Canberra. It’s a city. It’s got good infrastructure. Got good employment opportunities. Yes, it gets warm there and yes, it’s a dry climate, but the temperature doesn’t get as hot as Sydney. Their night time tempertures are a lot cooler and you can coe with extreme heat much better if you’ve got cooler night time temperatures to sleep. (Dr Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick)

For me and my wife – anywhere. Maybe forced to move further south and I’m sure there’s a lot of other people that are probably thinking the same thing. (Justin Ooger PhD student)

I find it really hard to decide on one particular region, saying “this one is going to be safe” and we’re just going to lock this one in. I don’t think there will be any safe places. I’m…the impacts are going to be big. So my approach is to be as mobile, as flexible as possible to be able to adapt to whatever is going to happen. (Associate Professor Katrin Meissner)

I’ve certainly taken a look at this (SW England) and looked at the climate projections and said yup that’s going to be good for the next sort of 100 years or so. Y’know, when some new fact comes in that makes me fearful, I think, well at least, y’know, I’ve done what I can to protect my family. I can’t protect them from changes in the global economy. I can’t protect them from mass migration. I can’t protect them from some of the impacts they’ll do no matter where I move to and no matter where I buy my house. But I can do what I can. (Professor David Griggs.)

* And after all of that, I discovered the original ABC broadcast with the full transcript.

17 comments on “Climate Scientists Open Up”

  1. weka 1

    Very good. Makes sense that Australian scientists would be getting to this now.

    I still think the most serious problems are political and social. If we decided to change now, there is much that could be saved that will otherwise perish. It’s what’s stopping us from change that’s the primary threat.

    • Bill 1.1

      I’m not sure what you mean by saying “makes sense that Australian scientists would be getting to this now”

      The people within the scientific community I speak to are variously based in NZ, N. America and Europe, and they’ve been talking along the same lines in private for some years now.

      I think we agree there are massive political and economic (maybe roll it all under the label of “cultural”?) barriers set before or against any serious action on global warming. But if you listen to those interviews, those scientists aren’t actually stepping away from any of it. They’re still talking in terms of job opportunities and retirement and what not…and probably still flying somewhat willy-nilly around the world – because that’s what academics do.

      I’ve no idea what can be saved or not saved off the back of immediate change. Some stuff is locked in, and there’s a real possibility that some tipping points that remove global warming from our hands have already been crossed. Ice melt and acidification of the oceans come immediately to mind as possible areas or examples where that might already be the case. The truth is that no-one knows what, if any, inevitable consequences are now set to flow from conditions we’ve already brought into being.

      • weka 1.1.1

        I meant that in Australia, because of the landscape, climate, and the way non-native people live there the issues of that is about to go down is much more in your face than lots of other developed countries. So it makes sense to hear scientists there speaking publicly about this and that MSM would broadcast it.

      • weka 1.1.2

        “But if you listen to those interviews, those scientists aren’t actually stepping away from any of it.”

        I suspected that. The bits about ‘I’m looking after my family at least’ made me think there’s still a way to go. Not that people shouldn’t do that, but when it becomes a conflict between that and doing the right things by CC, we have a significant problem. As you say, careers are still more important.

        “The truth is that no-one knows what, if any, inevitable consequences are now set to flow from conditions we’ve already brought into being.”

        I work off the principle that any harm we can lessen or prevent gives systems better chances of surviving and adapting. So in that sense, I will always be working for change. Which means it’s still useful to tackle the cultural/social/political issues even if we are locked into some things (or might be locked in). I see hope in those scientists speaking out, and risk too, because it may push some people into despair and choosing to give up or party while they can.

  2. Incognito 2

    I was reading something last night that is very pertinent to this post:

    What leads to this sidelining of environmental concern and action is the same thing that manufactures environmental problems to begin with: the social constitution of daily life—how we as a human community institute the many structures and motivations that pattern our days, making some actions convenient and immediately sensible and other actions not.[author’s italics]


    This PDF is the first chapter of the textbook An Invitation to Environmental Sociology by Michael Bell.

    http://michael-bell.net/ [recommended!]


  3. Pat 3

    rather bleak, though realistic imo, outlook….and nothing that couldnt been gleaned by reading between the lines of a lot of articles regarding climate change

  4. RedLogix 4

    Interesting how David Griggs is specifically contemplating cooler locations to move to. Sort of smartarse I know, but looking out the window Ballarat would be a suitable choice most of the year.

    It’s still 11 degC with a chill breeze outside, and I’m typing this with three layers and a beanie on. (Then again I have to admit that in a few months time it’s be in the high 30’s as soon as those desert winds start heading down.)

    But yes it’s good to hear some researchers speaking their private thoughts out loud. Most feel very conflicted by the demands of their profession and the constraints placed on them by the institution they work for. But from my modest personal contact with them I’ve always understood that what they publish is but the most conservative interpretation of what they believe.

    • lprent 4.1

      But from my modest personal contact with them I’ve always understood that what they publish is but the most conservative interpretation of what they believe.

      Yep. It is what they can either definitely prove or that there is a very high degree of confidence in.

      The problem with climates is that to get certainty, researchers really need a time machine to go back to something like the end of Karoo Ice age 26 million years ago (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_age#Major_ice_ages). We have been in the Holocene interglacial of the current Quaternary ice age for the last 11 thousand years (and the ice age has been actively running for about 2.58 million years and strongly cooling the planet for the 40 million years prior). So nothing in any recent geological history gives up much of a hint about processes at the fine detail required to give high enough certainty to predictions when it comes to timescales. When your observations of the last period of actual greenhouse effect accuracy levels is at best in tens of thousands of years, trying to map that on to hundreds of years with the effects of fossil carbon burning being far above any natural processes is just possibilities.

      Since they can’t do that, all that they can know for certain is that increased CO2 into the atmosphere will strongly increase the greenhouse effect. It doesn’t matter if this happens via burning fossil fuels (like we are doing now), or of the rate of carbon sequestering drops (as happened at the end of Karoo) and we will be pushed back into the the normal temperatures – which neither us nor our client species evolved in.

      About the only thing that anyone can say with any scientific certainty is that it isn’t going to be comfortable over the next decades and centuries.

  5. eco maori 5

    This is a awesome Bill the reality’s of climate change .
    NOW MSM don’t think I’m picking on you’s . I’m just telling it like it is I saw a news item on building eco efficient home’s with solar and I thought well that’s good but at the end the bull shit artist said that It would cost 20 % more but I say one could get a house designed and built for the same price as a standard house what’s so expensive about having the house orientated to take advantage of the sun in the winter and shade in the summer you have the sun shining on a large thermal mass ie concrete floor or wall to store the sun’s heat and release it all nite or all the time .
    And solar is cheap in NZ and is only going to get cheaper all that has to happen is a law to make energy company’s pay 95 % of the retail price for solar power tariffs feed into the grid I say that 5 % of the price would be enough to cover there cost for providing this service to solar power users . You could just have basic kitchen and bath room and just these saving would cover the cost of installed solar power $10.000 to $20.000 .
    It’s not like we have invented some new technology we have been building like that for thousands of years . It’s just some people have been repressing this way of building /living as big business will miss out on some of there profit’s. MSM shape our view on reality and when OUR media is being manipulated to distort the reality than we are being ripped off of the TRUTH and we need to come up with a answer to solve this problem One good thing is that social media is heiping get the TRUTH out to the people

  6. lloyd 6

    If you live in Australia temperature and drought, followed by cyclones are short-term threats. In NZ heat waves are unlikely to be a threat as we are surrounded by sea. Most city dwellers will have to worry about sea level rise, especially with storm surges. Floods are also more likely in NZ.
    Stormwater standards, minimum floor levels and infrastructure vulnerability need to be looked at. Houses on piles are less likely to be flooded than ground level concrete slabs.
    New Zealand should be designing for a significant sea-level rise – 60m would not be silly.

  7. Paul Campbell 7

    I seriously worry that the first real change issue we’ll actually seriously react to will be the sudden arrival of 10M+ Aussies

    I kind of think we should call them on all the crap they rain down on kiwis who move to Oz, and mutually switch to requiring residency visas while they still have climate deniers running the place

    • AB 7.1

      If it gets that bad they won’t be taking any notice of NZ immigration laws. They’ll be looking for lebensraum

      • Gristle 7.1.1

        Previously I commented that after the Flag Referendum that the next time a flag change is debated that it was likely to be at the point of gun. My guess is that Australia (or America or China or Indonesia) will come looking for some water and arable land.

  8. Whispering Kate 8

    AB Had to look up your word “lebensraum” – now I see what you mean. They won’t be the only climate refugees scrambling to come to NZ, our Pacific neighbours will be urgently requiring somewhere to live as well. That’s not even bringing into the equation all those wealthy citizens of the US and Europe coming down here for a bolt hole.

    The fact that we are placed right in the ring of fire and have earthquakes and dormant/live vulcanoes playing their tricks every so often, the poor beggars coming here will have to contend with that instead.

    • eco maori 8.1

      1 No selling land to foreigners this is basic security of OUR Sovereinty.
      2 9 % compulsory Kiwi saver and invest the funds in Green TEC most of our youth don’t even pass one thought about retirement mine do because I’m all ways talking / lecturing them about there retirement saving plans and this will decrees inequality.
      3 Compulsory voting this will sort out a few problems.
      Tax on carbon no complicated bullshit scheme just a tax that will disincentives the use of carbon based products E.C.T
      Water fees sounds better than tax anyway so both these fees/tax’s should be designed to achieve there objective which is to stop / lower carbon emotions and improve and maintain good supply and quality of OUR water.
      They should never be used as a revenue gathering tool because I think that will fuck up the main objectives of the fees which is to pass on to OUR children a pristine WORLD.

  9. eco maori 9

    I think irrigation is good but as a insurance against a drought 2 to 6 month’s of the year not in locations were you have irrigate 12 months as that is unsustainable and that takes away our low cost production advantage and that is stupid in my view

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