10 November 2013

Meeting a Witness to the Evil


noun: profound immorality, wickedness and depravity

adjective: profoundly immoral and malevolent; harmful or tending to harm

Yesterday we had lunch with one of my husband's climate change heroes, a physicist. They've been corresponding online for many years and Peter holds this gentleman in very high esteem. So it was a great honour for us that he took time away from a conference he's attending nearby to spend some time with us. 

I'm not sure what I was expecting (green scales and horns, perhaps, recalling our last encounter with a physicist). I'm a humanities major, and science has always felt quite foreign to me. I'm happy to say that it turned out to be a wonderful experience! A meeting of like minds and hearts. The conversation was the kind you have with a good friend you haven't seen in years. It flowed well, with lots of laughter and agreement.

But there were some very serious discussions, too. When it comes to the world of climate change science, this fellow has witnessed what I would call "evil" at several different levels. 

For starters (and I must admit, I don't know what order to list these evils in), this man has been vilely slandered and threatened not only by people who are scientifically ignorant, but also by people who, it turns out, are raking in the money from their fossil fuel involvements and investments. Are not conflicts of interest like this, when implicated in keeping the public and their governments from acting on the climate change emergency, villainous?

Next, this climate change scientist has built his whole scientific career on observation, but observing is now considered out of vogue in this age of computer modelling. When the lives of billions of people are at stake, is it not reprehensible and unforgivable to ignore reality if it doesn't fit with your computer modelled view of the world?

And finally, he has been part of the IPCC and has witnessed the contempt of some of his colleagues in that process. It's worse than what I blogged about a few weeks ago (The IPCC: "All About Modelling, Not About Protecting the Earth"). It appears that in some cases, even though the Fifth Assessment Report accepted new research up to 2012, if that research disagreed with a particular bias, it didn't get included.
Now, I understand human nature and world views and biases (after all, scientists are only human), but that's where peer review comes in. Except that in some cases, that review was rejected. Sounds like ego to me. And when the future viability of our biosphere is at stake, is not allowing ego to interfere with good science, well, evil?
It was a lovely lunch with a wonderful gent, but I came away saddened that our suspicions, notions and observations of evil had been validated by someone within the fray of international climate change science.

It's time to redouble our efforts on the side of good!
UPDATE: I just heard about the possible death toll from Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. My heart goes out to my friends there and to everyone impacted by this super storm. What a terrifying experience it must have been for them. 

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I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?