[Editor’s Note: The views expressed in this column do not necessarily represent the views of AtmoLife as a whole. We encourage the sharing of all viewpoints within the meteorology community and would love to hear yours as well.]
I don’t get political or serious often, most of the time I am funny and love sarcasm with anything and everything weather related. So, this is like the Cubs winning the World Series…It doesn’t happen often.
This letter that I am writing is, simply put, my PERSONAL thoughts on how this election pertains to the weather community as a whole. Therefore, this article pertains to you if you are any one of the following:
- You have an open mind about politics and aren’t set in stone on any one candidate
- You are a student in meteorology/atmospheric and environmental sciences or a professional in the community
- You have a family member or loved one in the “weather community”
- You care about the environment
IF you feel that you can read this with an open mind without a brash remark of “Oh you’re just a grab-bag liberal” OR “Oh you’re racist conservative!”, then, please continue…
Dear Weather Community,
Welcome to the 2016 election. We as a community are at an extreme crossroads. The recent political and social debates on television and social media have left a giant rift in the heart of America. I know my words may fall on deaf ears, because, who am I? I am not a well published scientist with 50 papers, I am not part of the “upper-echilon” of the weather community, I am young in the field. Maybe some of you will say, “this kid doesn’t know what he’s talking about, come back when you’ve been in the ‘real-world’.” But maybe if we took time to listen to the thoughts of others, we can get an understanding about where our field is heading and what are the concerns of the upcoming generations.
For ~80 years, meteorologists have mainly sat behind their computers, toiling with lab equipment, and crunching numbers by hand. We (the preverbal) have fought hard logical battles and made huge breakthroughs with understanding how the atmosphere, ocean, land, and biosphere work (cue the 1000’s of published works). However, this must change and MANY others in the field understand this concept. Evermore pressing is the influence of public interaction, social media, and explaining and justifying how the atmosphere works.
In cases of forecasting, we must know how to convey to the forecast to the end user, the public. We must also convey the concepts of threat or imminence of severe weather, while also giving estimates of uncertainty. Now, that is key issue number one, uncertainty. One of the fortunate/unfortunate hot topics of this election is the ‘debate’ about global climate change. Now, that’s key issue number two.
Together, key issues one and two are the platform for many political figures in America. The common arguments are: climate change is naturally cyclic or can’t happen, it’s nonsense (noise), meteorologists can’t even get the forecast right so how can they get climate right (uncertainty), or it’s a ploy to hurt the energy sector. For the sake of this letter, I don’t care where you stand on this issue. Chances are that if you are against it, no plethora of facts will ever change your mind. (If you do believe climate change exists, we will get to you in a moment.)
What I do care about is that, do you have any loved ones or friends who are students in atmospheric science or professionals in the public, private, or academic sectors of atmospheric science? Think about that, do you have a niece, nephew, father, mother, cousin, or even second-cousin that works in this field?
If you answer yes, then select politicians (or non-politicians running for a politician job…you know who I’m talking about, Mr. Trump, who clearly stated via Twitter that he thought climate change was fabricated by the Chinese), could spell the end of their careers, especially if they are young, college aged students. Impossible you say? There’s no way that could happen you say? Let’s digest it some with a hypothetical situation…
Lets say that the house, congress, state governors, and the POTUS were all or mostly against the notion that climate change exists. Large scale, high dollar amount, government funding for climate change could cease to exist. Sure, there would still be some research in the climate sector, but the shear dollar amounts are less. This means that there will be many “climate jobs” that will be removed, because there isn’t enough funding. You say: “No, those people will just move to a different sub-field of atmospheric sciences.” Really? Want a real-world example? The tobacco industry. How well has the tobacco industry performed compared to when government regulations and warnings were not in place. You say: “Private industry would take over funding.” Really? Look at the state of many meteorology programs in the country. If you come from the upper-echelon of meteorology schools in the country, you might not see it, but funding has not been easy for our field and many intelligent scientists with atmospheric science/meteorology degrees do not have jobs in the field.
Bottom line is this: we will have a period of large influx of atmospheric scientists from graduating college who will go into a field with less jobs, because government funding has been cut. Our field will become oversaturated. Furthermore, the smartest students may not be hired somewhere, because of this over saturation. Our field will not progress as far as it would otherwise.
If you are outside of the weather community and say: “You just pick candidates to save your field, you’re a privileged, entitled, millennial.” My answer is no, because I believe in climate change. The fact that our field will become oversaturated just gives an extra sense of urgency. Imagine if the day after a president is elected that your field is cut in half and while you may not get laid off, your buddy Bill or Mary gets let go and can’t find a job. They have worked hard and long for 10 years at your place of business and is reduced after a year of searching to get a job at half the pay and they are expected to feed their family…
Now, for those who do believe in climate change and/or who are already in the field. When is the last time a POTUS was well versed in meteorology/atmospheric science? When was the last time a governor of a state has taken more than Meteorology 101? Sure, maybe some politicians receive insight from us in the field, maybe they counsel us on disaster management, but when was the last time a person of power truly tried to understand how the atmosphere works?
If you are of the opinion that politicians don’t need to know how the atmosphere works, but rather what to do logistically, I respect your opinion. However, could you imagine the world we would live in if someone of power was well versed in atmospheric science, environmental science, engineering, management, economics, law, and politics?
This is the turning point, the rift, I see coming. This is my charge. We as a scientific community need to become more involved in public affairs, we need to not only inform the public of the facts and knowledge we have obtained, but also listen to what the public wants regardless of what they believe. Their truth is theirs. We cannot sacrifice skill and intelligence and the future of this field just to save some money; however, we must be aware of the state of affairs and finances of the public, private, and academic sectors (which all relate to the government in some way). We need our scientific leaders to become more involved in the political arena.