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Paul Beckwith was  a recent guest on Talking Radical Radio to talk about his work associated with climate change science. Paul is no ordinary climatologist and scientist; he is tireless in his efforts to reach a far too complacent public about the imminent dangers of our rapidly warming planet.

The Home Page of  Talking Radical Radio describes its focus:

Every community, every workplace, and every individual life in Canada owes some of their current shape to long histories of struggle. And the lives we live tomorrow, next year, and in seven generations will be shaped by the struggles going on today.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada through in-depth interviews that concentrate not on current events or the crisis of the moment, but on giving people involved in a broad range of social change work a chance to take a longer view as they talk about what they do, how they do it, and why they do it.

Climate Scientist Taking It To The People

A Climate Scientist Taking it to the peopleDuring the Talking Radical Radio episode, climate scientist Paul Beckwith talks about his research and his efforts to push beyond the usual role expected of scientists to engage directly with the public on scientific questions related to climate change.

There have always been exceptions, but by and large it is not seen as part of the job description for scientists to put energy into engaging the broader public when it comes to their own research or to scientific ideas more generally. Indeed, in recent years, the Conservative federal government in Canada has gone out of its way to make sure that no scientist on the federal payroll shares their expertise with the public without it being passed through right-wing ideological filters first. A climate scientist taking it to the people is not common in Canada.

But at least one crucial pillar of one of the defining issues of our era – global climate change – is intimately bound up with how policymakers and, perhaps more importantly, ordinary people relate to scientific research, analysis, and ideas. Faced with ideological restrictions like those from the Canadian government, and with a profoundly anti-scientific campaign of climate change denial dressed up as “responsible skepticism” that is funded with massive resources from the fossil fuel industries, growing numbers of climate scientists – those whose jobs are not at risk by doing so, anyway – are pushing the boundaries of professional expectations and engaging directly with the public on this incredibly important issue.

Paul Beckwith has a background in physics and engineering, but with a growing sense of the importance of climate change, he switched fields and went back to school. He is currently doing a PhD related to climate change at the University of Ottawa, where he is studying a hypothesis that argues that things are in fact much worse than the dominant scientific consensus on the issue currently recognizes.

Along with the usual original research and teaching that someone in his position is expected to do, Beckwith has also committed himself to engaging with the public on questions related to climate change through social media, writing for popular outlets, participation in relevant groups, producing his own YouTube videos, and much more. He hopes this will contribute to efforts to build the kind of popular consciousness we need if we’re going to mount a social challenge that might be adequate to confront climate change.


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7 COMMENTS

  1. Thank Paul for your work and insight. It would be good if we heard from Polly Higgins the UK Barrister and International Lawyer leading the ecocide campaign as well the the members of End Ecocide EU
    As well as these retired Pentagon Leaders who recognized global climate destabilisation as a threat to national security. I view it as criminal as ecocide.

    • Thanks for your comments Gordon. I will thank Paul and perhaps he will want to respond himself.

      I agree with you that we need to hear a lot more from the ecocide front. The threat to national security and world stability from climate change is very real. We can expect refugees in the millions as food and fresh water supplies run out. This is already starting to happen.

      • Thanks Gordon. The U.S. military is well aware of the crisis. I just posted this on Facebook:

        What does the U.S. military think about climate change?

        Have a look in their March, 2014 report. Sounds like they are aware of what is happening. Perhaps they should communicate that to deniers and oil companies, and politely suggest that these folk stop lying or else.

        “”Climate change poses another significant challenge for the United States and the world at large. As greenhouse gas emissions increase, sea levels are rising, average global temperatures are increasing, and severe weather patterns are accelerating. These changes, coupled with other global dynamics, including growing, urbanizing, more affluent populations, and substantial economic growth in India, China, Brazil, and other nations, will devastate homes, land, and infrastructure. Climate change may exacerbate water scarcity and lead to sharp increases in food
        costs. The pressures caused by climate change will influence resource competition while placing additional burdens on economies, societies, and governance institutions around the world.

        These effects are threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions – conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.
        “”

        “”The impacts of climate change may increase the frequency, scale,
        and complexity of future missions, including defense support to civil authorities, while at the same time undermining the capacity of our
        domestic installations to support training activities. Our actions to increase energy and water security, including investments in energy efficiency, new technologies, and renewable energy sources, will increase the resiliency of our installations and help mitigate these effects.””

        “”Finally, the Department will employ creative ways to address the impact of climate change, which will continue to affect the operating environment and the roles and missions that U.S. Armed Forces undertake. The Department will remain ready to operate in a changing environment amid the challenges of climate change and environmental damage. We have increased our preparedness for the consequences of environmental damage and continue to seek to mitigate these risks while taking advantage of opportunities. The Department’s operational readiness hinges on unimpeded access to land, air, and sea training and test space.
        Consequently, we will complete a comprehensive assessment of all installations to assess the potential impacts of climate change on our missions and operational resiliency, and develop and implement plans to adapt as required.

        Climate change also creates both a need and an opportunity for nations to work together, which the Department will seize through a range of
        initiatives. We are developing new policies, strategies, and plans, including the Department’s Arctic Strategy and our work in building
        humanitarian assistance and disaster response capabilities, both
        within the Department and with our allies and partners. “”

        • Paul & Gordon – one thing we can count on is for US military strategists to incorporate the effects of climate change in their military planning and training. The military will leave nothing to chance. US security interests are paramount for US citizens. Not to mention the size of the military budget. Hence (as the last paragraph mentions), “We are developing new policies, strategies, and plans, including the Department’s Arctic Strategy and our work in building humanitarian assistance and disaster response capabilities, both within the Department and with our allies and partners.” The spillover effect will benefit society at large.

          There are precedents for this. As I recall, the initial expansion and development of the internet owes its success to the US military. (in part)

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