Climate change is one of those topics that is especially frustrating for science communicators. It is a massively important problem that demands our immediate attention because it is threatening wildlife, our oceans, food crops, and human lives; particularly some of the poorest in the world.
There's an enormous amount of evidence that climate change is real, yet there are some who simply refuse to believe it and can be pretty vocal about it. While we should be focusing time and energy on figuring out how to best address the problem, we waste precious time arguing over its existence. For those who talk about science every day, fielding negative comments from climate change deniers becomes an annoying part of life.
Theoretical astrophysicist Katie Mack from the University of Melbourne recently took to Twitter to confess some heartfelt feelings about climate change:
With Twitter being Twitter, Mack was bound to receive some negative comments following the tweet, no matter how genuine the intention behind her words. One messenger, in particular, lashed out with his response.
She could have dismissed the comment with the eyeroll we all gave it, but she decided to clap back perfectly:
Not many people can humblebrag about their PhD in astrophysics, but she can and she did it beautifully.
Many of her followers who caught the exchange agreed:
Even though the original, hastily-written comment was meant to spread nastiness instead of promoting dialogue, it does bring up an interesting point about who we listen to about certain issues.
Mack is known for her work with topics including dark matter, black holes, and cosmic strings. There's no denying that she's extraordinarily intelligent, but what would an astrophysicist know about climate change? Should we even trust her to know what she's talking about?
Yes, we should.
It's true, Mack isn't a climatologist, ecologist, or biologist who would have direct, hands-on experience with the ways the world is changing because of the climate (or maybe she does, because who am I to say how she spends her weekends?). But she does understand the way science works.
There are requirements of publishing studies in a scientific journal and the scientific community is constantly checking and rechecking itself in order to catch any mistakes. If there was enough contradictory evidence to justify a controversy, that'd be a different story. The evidence overwhelmingly supports the reality of human-caused climate change, so it makes sense for all of us to trust the process and accept that it's something we need to deal with.
While it'd be nice if the conversation could shift from "is climate change real?" to "what can we do about climate change?" it might be a while before that happens. Until then, Mack leaves us with some brilliant closing thoughts:
As Leslie Jones would say: Slay all day!
Cover image: Katie Mack/University of Melbourne