‘We bear responsibility for our students and have to prepare them for the outside world. We can’t sit back and blame the climate chaos on them.”
How did you get involved in this movement yourself?
‘I always thought that governments would find a solution at some point. I myself mainly focused on individual consumption behavior such as reducing air travel and switching to a plant-based diet. However, during the covid pandemic, I realized that things can go very bad very quickly and that our stable world is not a given. I also realized that we cannot rely on those in power when it comes to solving the problem. This gave me a new, more in-depth look at climate change.
Then I read academic literature, attended workshops and lectures, and talked to climate scientists, and I discovered that the situation is much worse than I thought. Now I can’t just go back to my academic work of writing papers and teaching, I feel compelled to take action. I also find that it benefits my mental health if I can do something with my frustration, anger and fear around this theme – those emotions are largely caused by the discrepancy between the state of emergency I read about and the actions that governments and companies are taking. ‘
Do you think scientists are making themselves heard enough in the climate debate?
‘Scientists have done a fantastic job of informing the world about the climate emergency, for example with the IPCC reports. Without that work, we wouldn’t know we’re in this huge mess. However, too little is being done to tackle the root of the problem. It is a moral problem for scientists: providing alarming information does not always lead to adequate action. For example, carbon emissions today are 60 percent higher than they were in 1990, when the first IPCC report came out. That is a policy failure of historic proportions, but it also questions the role of scientists on a planet in crisis. I don’t think scientists can sit still at their desks while our world is on fire; we must let our actions speak.
The situation is somewhat different for scientists who are not concerned with climate and related issues. But they, like me, are still immensely privileged people. Scientists can read and understand the IPCC reports, and with that knowledge comes a responsibility to act. The university context is also important: we bear responsibility for our students and have to prepare them for the outside world and for a career. We cannot sit back and leave the climate chaos behind for them.
In general, I think that scientists can use their status and role in society to accelerate the implementation of climate measures. This is also a goal of Scientist Rebellion, to be to the scientific community what Greta Thunberg was to the youth. The time has now come. We must force rapid change from below, because governments will not save us.’