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The New York Times gives some interesting insights into the climate change advocacy that’s been done by Richard Somerville, a theoretical meteorologist and professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
Scientists have traditionally stayed politically neutral, providing the research that policymakers use to address issues. Somerville, who contributed to the most recent assessment of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has been more outspoken about his concerns that climate change needs to be addressed swiftly.
The Times‘ Andrew Revkin writes:
It is a sticky position, and comes with risks, not the least of which is the potential for opponents of gas restrictions to raise questions about a scientist-advocate’s objectivity back in the research world. But Dr. Somerville, who has also contributed to several reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says the risks that attend further silence, in the face of ever-growing emissions of heat-trapping gases, are far greater.
Somerville shared these thoughts about his move from researching to advocacy:
“It is very tough in general to get scientists to make policy advocacy statements. It goes against the grain. They are more comfortable just doing research. Some scientists are opposed to any scientist doing any form of policy advocacy. Most are politically naive, I should think. I certainly am.
“For me, and maybe for many, I think that ‘going public’ and making a statement as an individual, who is also a climate expert, is simply a next logical step,” Dr. Somerville said. “After all, many politicians have said that scientists should be heard from more. As long as we are always at pains to make clear that we are speaking only as individuals, not on behalf of our employers or other organizations, then I think we are just behaving as good citizens.”