Without activism, a climate scientist has no credibility

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January 23, 2023 | Members of the Scientists’ Rebellion argue that activism in climate science is essential to scientific integrity. They say that scientists who understand the seriousness of the situation should not stand in isolation. “I’m not saying you should ban a lignite mine, but if you knew this and didn’t do anything, I don’t think you’re credible,” says Niels Dupont (VU).





Photo: Markus Spiske (Unsplash)


Does activity have a place in science? Tamarrud al-Ulama attempted to answer this question during a meeting at VU. Previously argued Leo Van Campenhout in ScienceGuide Scientists have an important role to play in combating the climate crisis. Quinn Lemire, Nils Dupont and Marthe Wiens, who work at the University of Victoria, explained why scientific activity is not only not accepted, but also necessary.

Ice caps and permafrost

During the 3D meeting – a student-like room full of mismatched furniture – Wiens gave an overview of the situation. According to the IPCC’s latest report, we’re on track to warm by more than 1.5 degrees, the target set in the Paris climate agreement in 2015. Since then, greenhouse gas emissions have only increased, Wiens says.

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A 1.5-degree warming is what’s called Guidance pointWiens says. “This means that some of the now-stable climate systems will be destabilized.” At 1.5 degrees, more permafrost melts and the risk of major ice floes in the Antarctic Ocean increases. Melting ice caps causes sea levels to rise, and when The permafrost melts, methane is released. Both processes, in turn, cause more warming. According to Wiens, greenhouse gas emissions must be significantly reduced to prevent this, even more than what the Paris Agreement stipulates.

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Reports and petitions

Le Maire and Dupont’s activism stems from the urgency of the climate crisis. “At the University of Victoria’s Institute of Environmental Studies, people work on this every single day,” says Dupont. “It is impossible to ignore how bad things are.” During his promotion he became increasingly restless and thought a lot about doomsday scenarios. “I decided to adapt on a personal level; for example, I stopped eating meat. It gave me a sense of control, but I can calculate the effect myself; it’s not much.”

Critics who believe that activism does not belong in science argue that researchers should conduct quality research in order to inform society and policymakers as much as possible. “Of course there are many ways to take a stand, but we’ve already tried a lot,” Lemaire sighs. Scholars wrote reports and signed petitions. God knows what we’ve all tried to show that we need to act now and almost nothing has happened in the last 30 years.”

He runs

Le Maire believes he should use his position as an assistant professor to educate more people about the seriousness of the climate crisis. “As an assistant professor, I actually have more responsibility than others,” says Le Maire. “I have an impact, because I teach. People have to listen to me during class. If I’m not committed to the planet, who will? If I don’t take a stand, who will take action?”

Dipon agrees. “If I do nothing, I will give the false impression that everything is going well. That’s why I think teachers and researchers should take action. You can’t shout that the house is on fire and then quietly drink a cup of coffee. If you don’t manage yourself, they won’t believe you.” the people “.

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The facts at a glance

Another point of criticism is that the position of the activist is detrimental to the neutral and objective position of the researcher. According to Le Maire, the situation with regard to global warming is exceptional because we are close to it Guidance point sits. “I am convinced that we are approaching the moral limit where we can no longer say, ‘You are imposing your personal beliefs and it is not right. ‘ We are in uncharted territory. That is why I think it is a good idea to pass on my vision to my students.”

DuPont believes there is a risk of harming your academic integrity. “If you are not clear about what you are doing and why you are doing it, it can damage your integrity. You need to be clear about where your opinion begins and where the science ends. We have science on our side for the climate crisis, but if we are not clear about it, He is not honest from us. Then we pretend to be scholars, but we only sell our opinion.” Debonne himself makes sure that he always stays close to the results of the IPCC reports. “If you are wearing a lab coat and introducing yourself as a scientist, please correct your facts.”

At the same time, DuPont believes some of the activity is actually increasing the credibility of climate scientists. “It’s unbelievable if you don’t want to do anything for the climate at all. I’m not saying you should ban a lignite mine, but if you know this and don’t do anything, I don’t think you’re credible.”

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laid off – laid off temporarily

The actions that Debonne and Lemaire joined also pose a personal risk to them. This past weekend, they traveled to the German village of Lützerath, which was evacuated for the expansion of a nearby lignite mine and advocated by climate activists. Lemaire acknowledges that there is a risk that he will not be able to perform his duties as a teacher if he is caught in such an action. Yet he feels more responsible for the climate issue.

Dupont also weighs his personal convictions against professional practice. “There are things in the department that I don’t agree with,” he says. “For example, we have relationships with fossil fuel companies and we fly all over the planet. I’d like to do something about it, but I know I don’t make many friends.” The postdoc points out that people in the academic world benefit from maintaining good relationships. “If you argue a lot with the board of directors, for example, you’re less likely to get some promotions or opportunities.”

in the United States recently Oak Ridge National Laboratory researcher fired Having encouraged other climate scientists to take action during the protest. Dibon doesn’t expect to be fired for the actions he’s doing now, but he knows it could have an impact on his career. “If it came to the question between science and activism, I would be an activist.”

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