It’s Hug a Climate Scientist Day. I’m not planning to charge down to the nearest university and tackle some poor unsuspecting climatologist with nothing more than a “hey I interviewed you six years ago, so it’s not like we’re strangers”.
But I thought it might be a good chance to highlight Dr Jack Katzfey, another one of my favourite scientists in my book. Katzfey’s main job is at CSIRO Air and Atmosphere, but he was twice seconded to work for the Alinghi team in the America’s Cup contest, providing them with warnings of wind shifts before the competition.
Predicting a single wind-gust is a very different problem from estimating the temperature of the planet 30 years from now. Nevertheless, Katzfey was using the same meteorological models, combined with his own talent and intution born of years of research and his own time as a yacht racer on the Great Lakes.
Now if you can get a team from Switzerland to win the world’s most prestigious ocean racing contest then you probably know a bit about your work. Which refutes the vision climate deniers espouse of climatologists as living in some sort of sheltered workshop where their ideas and talents are never truly tested.
The other great denier myth Katzfey’s career neatly rebuts is the idea that climate scientists are just in it for the money, whipping up a huge scare campaign to get bigger grants. Any half way decent climatologist has the mathematical skills to be earning much more on Wall Street, and Katzfey could clearly be earning plenty even in fields closer to the one he trained in, if he did this sort of thing as a full time gig. The fact that he has stuck with CSIRO indicates he’s more committed to the truth than chasing the big dollars, which makes him a pretty unlikely candidate for being part of a conspiracy to defraud the planet.
So today, I would like to express thanks to every climate scientist in Australia. Thanks for accepting jobs that pay a lot less than you could be earning somewhere else. Thanks for doing your work in the face of death threats. Thanks for maintaining your dignity when senators were calling you part of a communisty conspiracy, state MPs calling you Nazis and the most powerful media company the world has ever seen thinks it’s being nice if it restricts the abuse to calling you incompetent and stupid.
Most of all, thanks for giving all of us a chance. A chance not available to every past civilization destroyed by regional climate change or local environmental destruction. You’re all my heroes.
(Oh and also thanks to the inimitable First Dog on The Moon, whose idea this was).