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.

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