16 September 2009

Being inconvenienced

In my more cynical moments, I’ve often thought that people will do anything to combat climate change... as long as it doesn’t inconvenience them.

To make a point about climate change, Lewis Pugh did something that must have been mighty inconvenient. He swam across the North Pole. Making that point cost him the feeling in his hands for four months.

As a scientist, I think a fair amount about climate change, even though my research isn’t about that. I’ve mostly discussed it here as an example of how it is that people can end up buying into bad science, the psychology of belief, skepticism and denialism, and so on.

But besides trying to convince people that climate change is true, how many scientists have actually changed their research or their lab to reduce carbon emissions? I haven’t. I’m not proud of that, but it’s true. I wish I knew how to lead on this issue, and have a “green” lab, but I’m not sure how that would be possible. Science is a very energy intensive endeavor. We constantly have administration fretting about the energy costs of our science building compared to other buildings on campus. Then there are the hundreds, if not thousands of miles researchers travel to go to conferences.

At some point, we scientists are not only going to have to talk the talk on climate change, we’re going to have to walk the walk. And I’m afraid it could be mighty inconvenient.

Related links: A Nature editorial about the importance of universities building energy efficient buildings; a letter to Nature about how applying for a job typically requires eleven (!) paper copies of records.

No comments: