Projects > Trying to Talk to Climate Change Researchers About the Future and their Feelings

It was a warm day that emerged unexpectedly after weeks of a slow descent towards winter. I sat outside before the meeting thinking about how appropriate it was to meet with a climate expert on an unseasonably hot day. I looked over my notes—he was the most established academic I had met with yet. His contributions over the past twenty years included a number seminal texts in the field.

I knocked on the door and he apologized and asked for 5 more minutes. I looked at posters in the hall, colorful with maps and graphs detailing heaps of impenetrable information. When I entered the office I noticed the complete absence of any visual material. There were two framed pictures of children who looked like him. There was an empty bulletin board with faded areas, alluding to materials having lived there for some time in the past.

My now practiced pitch was concise. He (as the scientists all did) discussed the impossibility of expressing one vision of the future. When I talked about the potentiality of addressing what he thought to be the “most likely” future scenario he said something I did not expect

“We will do one thing or we will do another thing. It does not matter to me; I just do the research.”

He used to care about trying to stop climate change but, after a number of years he decided it was no longer a “good investment”. (Of time? Of emotion? It was not clear to me exactly what investment was too costly.) His job was science. I asked more questions, relating them back to my project.

He said he no longer had feelings about his work.

He repeated that it did not matter to him what happened.

It seemed sad to me but he appeared unperturbed by his abandonment of emotion. When I left he told me he would be happy to help me with my project but did not respond to any of my follow up messages.