Credulous journalists have found a new genre of stories: climate scientists on the verge of a nervous breakdown. If you go by a recent spate of reports detailing the near-suicidal despair afflicting the warmist elite, something called ‘pre-traumatic stress disorder’ is prompting climateers to set aside their computer models and report for treatment. It seems that working long days tweaking temperature records and cherry-picking data to conjure apocalyptic scenarios takes a dreadful toll — especially with the real-world halt to warming now stretching to 18 years and beyond.
The doyen of climate journalists is the UK Guardian’s Roger Harrabin. His July 9 story focused on an un-named “professor of ocean geology” discussing ocean heating and alleged acidification caused by CO2 emissions. Harrabin wrote:
As the professor spoke about the future of the oceans for Radio 4’s World Tonight I noticed the tears in her eyes.
‘Stop recording now,’ she said. ‘I can’t be crying on the radio. It’s demeaning to women scientists, especially after Tim Hunt [The UCL Professor who controversially resigned after quipping that women scientists get emotional in the lab].’
I argued that the audience would be moved by her commitment, and the interview continued with tears flowing.
‘I love the oceans,’ she said. ‘I feel passionately about what we are doing to them and I’m worried that they will be irreversibly damaged.
‘I’m seriously concerned how the ocean will look like in 2100. Because with the current predictions we will not have coral reefs; with the current predictions they [her young daughters] will not enjoy eating mussels and oysters. They will not have a lot of things we take for granted.’
“A colleague was moved by her passion: ‘That was really powerful. She almost had me crying too. That’s the sort of interview that will stay with the audience for some time.’
“The professor on the other hand was unhappy. I persuaded her to let me broadcast the tearful radio interview but she truncated a subsequent TV interview when she became overwrought again.”
Harrabin pondered whether her bawling was good or bad for persuading the masses to embrace climate doomery. He conceded that some hard-heads might prefer scientists to be more objective and less tearful, concluding with the ludicrous assertion that “many climate scientists downplay their passion for their subject to avoid being labelled ‘environmentalists’ by those who don’t share their values.”
The barrage of apocalyptic forecasts in the run-up to the Paris climate talks in December doesn’t suggest climate scientists are being over-conservative. An earlier example of climatistic lamentation was observed at the Bali climate round, when chairman Yvo de Boer burst into tears because a procedural matter went against him. The delicate flower had to be led snuffling from the room.
Harrabin’s weird stuff was as nothing compared with a long, recent piece in Esquire magazine by John H. Richardson about “leading climate scientist” Professor Jason Box, a doom-mongering glaciologist. The main lesson male warmists can draw from this piece is to stop your wife butting in on media interviews, contradicting your narrative and making gratuitous references to your mental health. This is chronicled in the Esquire article, which records how Mrs Klara Box intruded, but strangely the interview proceded as if nothing untoward had occurred. More on that later.
Box had tweeted last year, “If even a small fraction of Arctic sea floor carbon is released to the atmosphere, we’re f****d.”
This plain language about the likely demise of human life on earth excited the media pack everywhere. The fact that Box is an ex-Greenpeace worker who participated in a 2011 mass demo at the White House by 350.org, didn’t raise the slightest media skepticism. Two years ago, Box was getting more headlines for forecasting an “inevitable” 70-foot sea-level rise, involving the total loss of Antarctic ice-sheet freshwater. His concurrent prediction of complete Greenland surface melting “was later proven correct”, according to his bizarre entry in Wikipedia.
Continuing the he’s-a-victim meme, Richardson reported that Box had been carpeted by his Danish taxpayer-funded employer for trying to frighten the populace. This rattled Box because he had uprooted his reluctant family from Ohio to Denmark only a year previously, allegedly to get away from the taunts of Ohio’s denier community and “to witness the melting of Greenland up close”, in the reporter’s punchy prose. Like Harrabin, Esquire’s Richardson repeats that “climate scientists have been so distracted and intimidated by the relentless campaign against them that they tend to avoid any statements that might get them labeled ‘alarmists,’ retreating into a world of charts and data.” As if.
Richardson doggedly pursues Box, eager for a story about how climate scientists are coping with the trauma of modeling “changes to the earth that could render it a different planet.” Box invites him to Copenhagen and a family dinner at his home. Esquire ponies up the air fare and Richardson gets the interview, but Mrs Box scuttles the dinner amid marital tensions, as spouses occasionally do. Important to note is that Box had claimed status for his family as “climate refugees”, fleeing to Denmark’s wind-powered paradise. Richardson writes:
…his wife, Klara, resents any notion that she is a ‘climate migrant’. This is the first hint that his brashness has caused tension at home.
‘Well, she…’ He [Box] takes a moment, considering. ‘I’ll say something like, ‘Man, the next twenty years are going to be a hell of a ride,’ or ‘These poor North African refugees flooding to Europe,’ and how I anticipate that flux of people to double and triple, and will the open borders of Europe change? And she’ll acknowledge it… but she’s not bringing it up like I am.’
“Later, she sends a note responding to a few questions. She didn’t want to compare herself to the truly desperate refugees who are drowning, she says, and the move to Denmark really was for the quality of life. [She writes] ‘Lastly, the most difficult question to answer is about Jason’s mental health. I’d say climate change, and more broadly the whole host of environmental and social problems the world faces, does affect his psyche. He feels deeply about these issues, but he is a scientist and a very pragmatic, goal-oriented person. His style is not to lie awake at night worrying about them but to get up in the morning (or the middle of the night) and do something about it. I love the guy for it ”
Richardson manages to spin this rather damning wifely testimonial into more evidence for climate scientist Box’s psychic martyrdom. Having bugged out of Ohio amid matrimonial discord, Box is now considering bugging out of Denmark to shelter in Greenland from the coming heat holocaust. Mrs Box’s views on this new plan were not canvassed by reporter Richardson, though I suspect they would have made good copy.
Richardson does tease out, however, Box’s craving for a salutary catastrophy to awaken the masses to their peril:
This work often disturbs his sleep, driving him from his bed to do something, anything. ‘Yeah, the shit that’s going down has been testing my ability to block it.’
He goes quiet for a moment. ‘It certainly does creep in, as a parent,’ he says quietly, his eyes to the ground.
But let’s get real, he says, fossil fuels are the dominant industry on earth, and you can’t expect meaningful political change with them in control. ‘There’s a growing consensus that there must be a shock to the system.’
So the darker hopes arise—maybe a particularly furious El Niño or a “carbon bubble” where the financial markets realize that renewables have become more scalable and economical, leading to a run on fossil-fuel assets and a “generational crash” of the global economy that, through great suffering, buys us more time and forces change.
As environment reporters go, Richardson, is about average, i.e. dumb as a box of rocks. His intro sets the tone:
For more than thirty years, climate scientists have been living a surreal existence. A vast and ever-growing body of research shows that warming is tracking the rise of greenhouse gases exactly as their models predicted… (emphasis added)
Except the IPCC admitted last year that 114 of its 117 models overstated actual warming. Undaunted, Richardson bangs on:
A study by the US Navy says that the Arctic could lose its summer sea ice by next year, eighty-four years ahead of the models.
Fact: Last September there was 5.4m square kilometres of summer ice up there. Richardson also thinks that our very own Clive Hamilton is a climate expert, rather than a professional alarmist and public ethicist at Charles Sturt University.
Having set a tone of risible ignorance, Richardson does quite a good job interviewing prominent climate scientists, such as Michael Mann of Hockey Stick infamy. Mann’s report on 1000-year historic temperature trends was the poster child for the 2001 IPCC report, but by 2007 the report was so discredited that the IPCC threw it down the memory hole.
Media Watch could have some fun comparing Richardson’s doubtless well-paid piece with an earlier one by Madeleine Thomas (no relation) for Grist blog last October, headed “Climate depression is for real. Just ask a scientist”. Among the cheer-up solutions proffered by Madeleine Thomas was for scientists to shout “F—k!” and other dirty words to relieve their stress. Esquire’s Richardson used Madeleine’s piece as a template for his own, citing many of the same talking heads, including Clive Hamilton, and repeating Thomas’ error about one particular professor, Camille Parmesan, sharing a Nobel Prize (it was a worthless Nobel Peace Prize and the professor had no personal claim to it whatsoever).
Both authors tap the expertise of forensic psychiatrist Lise Van Susteren on climatists’ pre-traumatic stress disorder. The title of Van Susteren’s tract says it all: “The Psychological Effects of Global Warming on the United States: And Why the U.S. Mental Health Care System is Not Adequately Prepared.” For scientists suffering psych trauma, she recommends meditation and therapy. Madeleine also quotes psychologist-psychosocial researcher and consultant Renee Lertzman, a member of something called the Climate Psychology Alliance.
‘There’s a taboo talking about it,’ Lertzman says, adding that the tight-lipped culture of the scientific community can be difficult to bridge. ‘The field of the psychology of climate change is still very, very young … I believe there are profound and not well-recognized or understood psychological implications of what I would call being a frontliner. There needs to be a lot more attention given to frontliners and where they’re given support.’
Richardson at Esquire writes in the same vein:
“Among climate activists, gloom is building. Jim Driscoll of the National Institute for Peer Support just finished a study of a group of longtime activists whose most frequently reported feeling was sadness, followed by fear and anger. Dr. Lise Van Susteren, a practicing psychiatrist and graduate of Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth slide-show training, calls this ‘pretraumatic’ stress. ‘So many of us are exhibiting all the signs and symptoms of post-traumatic disorder—the anger, the panic, the obsessive intrusive thoughts.’ Leading activist Gillian Caldwell went public with her ‘climate trauma’, as she called it, quitting the group she helped build and posting an article called ‘16 Tips for Avoiding Climate Burnout,’ in which she suggests compartmentalization: ‘Reinforce boundaries between professional work and personal life. It is very hard to switch from the riveting force of apocalyptic predictions at work to home, where the problems are petty by comparison.’”
Hmm. I’d be brave to tell my own wife her problems are petty.
Richardson discovers that some despairing academics have quit and moved to off-grid bolt-holes in the woods to prepare for the abrupt climate change they are sure is coming. Fellow disciples of despair have created fifty chapters of this “Dark Mountain” movement globally to run their despair-a-thons. Others have joined Deep Green Resistance, a body advocating the sabotage of Western industrial infrastructure.
Richardson’s ostensible Nobelist Professor Parmesan (no puns, please) was working in Houston doing a study on changes to US butterfly habitats, supposedly another ‘proof’ of human-caused global warming. She announced she’d become ‘professionally depressed’ and bugged out to Plymouth University to get away from sceptic taunts after the 2009 Copenhagen fiasco. She was convinced her butterfly study was the bees’ knees in science, but to her astonishment and anger, Richardson says, the IPCC itself trashed claims of ‘high confidence’ that species were responding to climate change.
Richardson also has a verbal love-in with Michael Mann, who he says has had heaps of death threats: “A British journalist threatened the electric chair”, says Richardson. I immediately recognized the style of iconoclast James Delingpole, who mentioned, jocularly, such a hypothetical punishment for “the most risibly inept, misleading, cherry-picking, worthless and mendacious graph – the Hockey Stick – in the history of junk science.” Delingpole had also asked whether Tim Flannery should be “fed to the crocodiles”, but in both instances concluded that capital punishment NOT be employed. Warmists everywhere love the death threat meme — including the ANU’s team who, in 2011, mistook an innocent conversation about kangaroo culling as their own personal death threat.
Michael Mann parades to Richardson his “anger, befuddlement, disillusionment, disgust” at failing to convince all and sundry about climate doom. One of his colleagues came close to suicide, he adds – an obvious reference to East Anglia’s Phil Jones whose ‘awful emails’ were exposed by Climategate in 2009.
Amusingly, Mann then bags one of the icons of the warmist scientific community, Gavin Schmidt of NASA, for “not really being scientific” because he doesn’t chant enough doomism. Schmidt, he charges, is “choosing to focus on the middle of the curve”. For Mann, being scientific means always opting for the most extreme scenarios.
The interview then goes all zen. Mann thinks the climate crisis is soluble (given enough trillions of dollars, one assumes), and Richardson asks Mann if that is another form of ‘denial’.
“The question seems to affect him. He takes a deep breath and answers in the carefully measured words of a scientist. “It’s hard to say,” he says. “It’s a denial of futility if there is futility. But I don’t know that there is futility, so it would only be denial per se if there were unassailable evidence.” So that’s all clear, then.
Mann narrates how he teachers students. He was showing them the (ludicrous) Day After Tomorrowclimate apocalypse film with the intent to debunk it, but then noticed reports that the giant system of ocean currents, the Atlantic Conveyor Belt, was slowing down. Moreover, Hurricane Sandy had flooded New York, just like in the movie. This blinding realization that the movie was, for students, coming true, “got to him.”
They’re young, it’s their future more than his. He choked up and had to struggle to get ahold of himself. ‘You don’t want to choke up in front of your class,’ he says.
About once a year, he says, he has nightmares of earth becoming a very alien planet.
Mann tells Richardson an anecdote of his young daughter weeping over a Dr Seuss story about a society destroyed by greed, just like how society could be destroyed by the climate.
She burst into tears and refused to read the book again. ‘It was almost traumatic for her.’
His [Mann’s] voice cracks. ‘I’m having one of those moments now.’
‘I don’t want her to have to be sad,’ he says. ’And I almost have to believe we’re not yet there, where we are resigned to this future.’
Richardson concludes, “However dispassionately delivered, all of this amounts to a lament, the scientist’s version of the mothers who stand on hillsides and keen over the death of their sons.”
So much for the UK Guardian, US Esquire etc. But what of Australia’s climatist community? How are these academics coping, like Dr Sarah Perkins, Climate Scientist, Extreme Events Specialist, UNSW:
For sometime now I’ve been terribly worried. I wish I didn’t have to acknowledge it, but everything I have feared is happening. I used to think I was paranoid, but it’s true. She’s [the planet’s] slipping away from us. She’s been showing signs of acute illness for quite a while, but no one has really done anything. Her increased erratic behaviour is something I’ve especially noticed. Certain behaviours that were only rare occurrences are starting to occur more often, and with heightened anger. I’ve tried to highlight these changes time and time again, as well as their speed of increase, but no one has paid attention.
It almost seems everyone has been ignoring me completely, and I’m not sure why. Is it easier to pretend there’s no illness, hoping it will go away? Or because they’ve never had to live without her, so the thought of death is impossible? Perhaps they cannot see they’ve done this to her. We all have.
How can anyone not feel an overwhelming sense of care and responsibility when those so dear to us are so desperately ill? How can you push all this to the back of your mind? This is something I will never understand. Perhaps I’m the odd one out, the anomaly of the human race. The one who cares enough, who has the compassion, to want to help make her better.
Dr Ailie Gallant, School of Earth, Atmosphere & Environment, Monash University:
I feel nervous. I get worried and anxious…
I get angry at the invalid opinions that are all-pervasive in this age of indiscriminant (sic) information, where evidence seems to play second fiddle to whomever can shout the loudest. I often feel like shouting…
But would that really help? I feel like they don’t listen anyway. After all, we’ve been shouting for years.
I hate feeling helpless. I’m ashamed to say that, sometimes, my frustration leads to apathy. I hate feeling apathetic.
I will keep doing my work. I will keep shouting in my own little way. I will be optimistic that we will do something about this, collectively. I live in hope that the climate changes on the graphs that I stare into every day wont be as bad as my data tells me, because we worked together to find a solution.
Associate Professor Katrin Meissner, Climate Change Research Centre, UNSW:
Knowing how much is at stake, knowing that I am one of the few people who understand the magnitude of the consequences and then realizing that most of the people around me are oblivious. Some of the people are not only oblivious, they also do not want to understand. They have made up their mind… but certainly not based on facts.
It makes me feel sick. Looking at my children and realizing that they won’t have the same quality of life we had. Far from it. That they will live in a world facing severe water and food shortages, a world marked by wars caused by the consequences of climate change.
It makes me feel sad. And it scares me. It scares me more than anything else. I see a group of people sitting in a boat, happily waving, taking pictures on the way, not knowing that this boat is floating right into a powerful and deadly waterfall. It is still time to pull out of the stream. We might lose some boat equipment but we might be able to save the people in the boat. But no one acts.
Time is running out.
Dr Alex Sen Gupta, Climate Change Research Centre, UNSW:
I feel bemused. That scientists who have spent years or decades dedicated to understanding how it all works are given the same credibility as poleticians, [sic] media commentators and industry spokes people with obvious vested interests and whose only credential is their ability to read discredited blogs.
Professor Lesley Hughes, Biological Sciences, Macquarie: We have harvested and cleared and plundered and spoiled. Every year our natural capital declines a bit more as we squander our heritage and rob our descendants.
And now we have this new threat, likely to be the biggest one of all.
Climate change is likely to become the biggest species killer ever, impoverishing our planet and our race.
We have so much to lose.
Professor Brendan Mackey, Director Of Griffith Climate Change Response Program:
I’m really sorry about the last couple of 100 years – we’ve really stuffed things up haven’t we! I though we climate scientist might be able to save the day but alas no one really took us seriously.
Associate Professor Anthony J. Richardson, climate change ecologist, University of Queensland:
I am exasperated. Exasperated no one is listening. I am frustrated. Frustrated we are not solving the problem. I am anxious. Anxious that we start acting now. I am perplexed. Perplexed that the urgency is not appreciated. I am dumbfounded. Dumbfounded by our inaction. I am distressed. Distressed we are changing our planet. I am annoyed. Annoyed with the media’s portrayal of the science. I am infuriated. Infuriated we are destroying our planet. But most of all I am apprehensive. Apprehensive about our children’s future.
Being impartial, I’d judge that, on the one hand, these people could be heroes defending the planet. Or, on the other hand, they could be a bunch of emotional sissies in a state of arrested development. You be the judge.
Tony Thomas blogs at No BS Here (I Hope)