Letters from climate scientists on how they feel about climate change

Your moment

The threat that climate change poses for our living planet is harder to grasp than, say, the threat of an international terrorist group. Climate change is a complex phenomenon not immediately visible to the naked eye. And its disastrous effects do not come in the form of a doomsday scenario but a slow, incremental burn.

A large group of passionate scientists all over the world have dedicated their lives to studying climate change and communicating it to the rest of us. They know all about the facts and figures, they publish reports and offer solutions.

We keep asking them what they think about climate change, but what about how they feel about it?

Is This How You Feel is a project by science communicator Joe Dogan. Dogan asks climate researchers: 'How does climate change make you feel?' and publishes their letters on his blog. So I went and read all of them.

After going through every single letter on the website, I came to realise that my feelings about both climate change and these letters match the general consensus from climate change scientists. It's a mixture of concern, anger, frustration and, surprisingly, hope.

All of these scientists, understandably, are concerned. They know what we are doing to the planet and they know of the consequences. Some talk about the glaciers, some describe in detail the coral reefs of their youth and how their children will never see them in their full majestic glory.

They are concerned about what's to come for their children and for their grandchildren but also for simply future; because climate change doesn't just mean the destruction of the living planet, it means drought and hunger and war.

At this point, it's impossible to not be worried about our future even without understanding the science behind it.

With concern and with knowledge about climate change comes a wave of inevitable anger. Anger towards people who choose to line their pockets and hold on to their power instead of protecting the people they owe those to. 

This feels like betrayal. I don't buy it anymore when the people who have the power to change things say they don't believe in climate change or that it's caused by people or that its effects will be devastating. I think they just don't care. 

Reading these letters made me realise that besides the impending doom and my feeling of powerlessness, the thing that frustrates me most about climate change is what it reveals about humans.

The scientists don't talk about being frustrated because nobody believes them, they are frustrated because everyone does. It's just that the greed overpowers any other feeling.

To acknowledge this makes me and the scientists whose letters I've read, and maybe you feel desolate, powerless and, by extension, incredibly frustrated. It feels like watching the world burn down, literally, in extremely slow motion.

But funnily enough in almost all of the letters I've read, bar for one that just describes a nightmare, there is a discernible sense of hope. These letters start with sad feelings, bad feelings but in the end, they all come down to this idea of coming together in the face of adversity. Most of these scientists believe that humans as a species are resilient, adaptable and creative.

It's not like climate change is a boogeyman we can't explain or one that we don't know the origin of. We know why it's happening and we know what to do in order to fight it. We just need to react and do it fast.

In all honesty, hope is the one feeling amongst those I described above that is the least dominant for me. I feel hopeful maybe one percent of the time when I'm thinking about climate change — and I think about it a lot. But reading letters from people who scientifically understand climate change much better than I do and seeing how many of them are still optimistic about turning this thing around definitely adds to those hopeful moments. 

If climate change were an epic battle on the last chapter of a fantasy novel, rainforests would be our number one ally. Cool Earth is an organisation that works with local communities in the Amazon to protect our existing rainforests and flourish them. If you want to contribute to keeping our number one allies strong, you can donate to them below.

More about: climate change

More Stories

  • Muslim doctors open free clinic for uninsured patients in a Ohio mosque


    In this time of religious tensions, a small piece of good news can go a long way in restoring your faith in humanity. This positive bit, for example, comes all the way from the United States. Northeast Ohio, to be precise.

    👉 In Parma, a small city close to Cleveland, a group of Muslim doctors decided to convert some of the local mosque's spare rooms into a free health clinic where everybody is welcomed, no matter if uninsured or not Muslim.

    As reported by local media outlet News5 Cleveland, The Cleveland Ibn Sina Clinic opened just a few weekends ago but more than 30 patients have already received treatment.

    "We have the ability, we have the potential, we have the resources,” said Dr. Mansoor Ahmed, who is one of the 20 doctors that committed to volunteering their expertise. "Giving a little bit of your time, I think, goes a long way in making a difference in people's lives," he added.

    “A lot of the doctors came here from foreign countries outside the United States looking for better opportunities. Now that they are established, some of them are practicing with hospitals, some of them have their own practice, now they want to come together and give back to the community,” commented Hala Sanyurah, who is the clinic's Communication Director.

    The clinic — that will not just focus on primary health issues but also on more specific diseases like asthma, diabetes, and mental illness  is the first free medical facility in the region.

    Credit header image: Stu Spivack 

    This story features:
    Read more
  • Winter was frigid because the polar vortex got ‘drunk'


    The mere mention of the term “polar vortex” elicits thoughts of bitterly cold temperatures and dangerous wind chills. Most people are aware that the frigid air in the Northern Hemisphere is coming directly from the Arctic region, yet they don’t know why polar vortexes happen.

    Not surprisingly, this has led to some rather heated debate. One side of the argument claims that the polar vortex is a result of climate change and human activity. The other side suggests this is a natural phenomenon that proves global warming is false and that humans are not involved in altering our climate.

    The truth is the former is correct. But trying to convince someone to accept this reality might be a difficult challenge. Thankfully, when it comes to the cause of the polar vortex, there is a relatively easy — and for some, relatable — explanation. Quite simply, the polar vortex gets drunk.

    My research expertise is in microbiology, immunology and chemical mechanisms of molecular interaction (think antibiotics).

    As a science communicator, one of my greatest hurdles is defining the intricacies of research into language with which people can understand. This means going deep into the literature and finding the mechanism behind the result. It also means having a deep level of knowledge in a variety of different science branches.

    In some cases, the information can be difficult to convey to a wider audience. But when it comes to the polar vortex, it’s not difficult at all.

    A close examination of the chemistry associated with the onset of these cold snaps reveals a near-perfect resemblance to a chemical shift our bodies encounter during alcohol consumption. The results reveal that both humans and the planet are similarly susceptible to unexpected and unwanted movements.

    Unstable masses

    Most of us can recognize when someone has had too much to drink. Their speech is slurred and they have troubles with their balance. This latter symptom is why the walk-and-turn sobriety test is effective — an inebriated person has trouble moving in a straight line.

    Maintaining posture and balance is a complicated neurological process. Research has revealed that one molecule, gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), is necessary for us to achieve this goal. Our brains use this neurotransmitter to help control the signals to our muscles, particularly when we feel the effects of gravity or being pushed by another person.

    When we drink alcohol, GABA helps us preserve our balance and posture. But once we end up losing the necessary levels of GABA needed to keep us upright, we sway, stagger and stumble. Only when we’ve sobered up and increased our GABA levels are we able to regain our balance.

    A similar process occurs in the Arctic.

    Cold sober

    The polar vortex, officially known as the stratospheric polar vortex (SPV), is a stable air mass that tends to stay put when it’s cold sober. In the same way we feel an internal heat during alcohol consumption, the region can warm up with an infiltration of air from the south, better known as a sudden stratospheric warming. When this happens, the steadiness of the vortex is challenged.

    Much like our brains have GABA to maintain stability, the SPV also has a chemical that helps to maintain stability. It’s ozone.

    When levels remain high, the vortex stays in place. But should the levels drop, then the vortex starts to sway, stagger and then stumble southward, a process known as outward eddy transport. Depending on how low the ozone levels drop, the vortex can stretch well into the southern United States and Europe. Eventually, the SPV sobers up, the ozone levels recover, and the air mass stays up north. But this recovery can be slow and leave those affected freezing for weeks instead of days.

    As to what causes the ozone loss, it’s a reaction with a variety of chemicals in the air. Researchers can observe the process in real time and have found that the offenders are not alcoholic in nature but happen to be compounds that contain nitrogen and chlorine. The Earth produces these chemicals in the form of volcanic output and forest fire emissions, and this can lead to a drunk polar region.

    But the frequency of these events has increased from one every few years to one very few months. There must be another perpetrator.

    Thanks to real-time examinations of polar vortex movements over the last 20 years, we can easily finger the culprit: industrial air pollution. These commercial activities produce more than enough of the nitrogen and chlorine chemicals to reduce ozone levels and cause those drunken staggers. The data clearly shows that the blame for the rise in those cold blasts falls squarely on us.

    As this winter’s supply of polar vortex events comes to an end, so should the debate over whether the polar vortex is real — it is — and whether these movements are due to human activity — they are. Until we find ways to reduce our dependence on ozone-removing chemicals, all we can do is hope for the best and brace for the worst.

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. It's written by Jason Tetro, Visiting Scientist at the University of Guelph You can read the original article here

    This story features:
    Read more
  • Inside the Hospital of St. Cross, UK's oldest charitable institution


    Here at Kinder, we're often busy thinking about the future of philanthropy and how charitable organizations will look like 100 years from now.

    However, every now and then, it's also helpful to look back at history and realize that there's a handful of charities that have been around for so long that there's certainly something we can learn from them.

    One of them is the Hospital of St. Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty in Winchester England, that actually prides itself to be the UK's oldest charitable institution.

    Founded around the year 1132, the almshouse was initiated by Bishop Henry of Blois to support thirteen poor men who were unable to work and to feed some 100 people who showed up at the gates every day.

    The thirteen men became known as the "Brothers of St. Cross". Despite the religious connotations of the term "brother", the Brothers of St. Cross were not and are not monks, therefore St. Cross is not a monastery. 

    The Wayfarer's Dole

    The Hospital of St. Cross' most unique and famous charitable endeavor is surely the so-called "Wayfarer's dole".

    According to this delightful tradition, every visitor of the almshouse can ask for a free horn of beer and a morsel of bread. As recalled by the organization's website, the custom was started by a monk from Cluny, in France, whose holy order always gave bread and wine to travelers.

    After so many centuries, this tradition still continues nowadays as seen in the BBC's program Songs of Praise👇

    The Hospital of St. Cross, which is hosted in a beautiful medieval building immersed in the British countryside, is regularly open for visits. Head to the organization's website for additional information.

    Read more