Of all of the questions I’ve been asked since I’ve returned, this is perhaps the most common, and perhaps the most puzzling?
Believe? I mean, like the Tooth Fairy?
Believe? I mean, like gravity?
When I was little, and one of my baby teeth fell out, I put it under my pillow, and the ToothFairy took it away (she missed one once), and left a dime, or later, a quarter. And I can tell you from experience, that it didn’t matter if I BELIEVED in the ToothFairy or NOT. She STILL put a coin under my pillow. For every baby tooth. Every time.
When I was little, I fell down a lot. Usually I skinned a knee, an elbow, a chin, once my neck, and my dad asked how on earth I managed to skin my neck (it was the branch I got hung up on my way down from falling out of the tree I wasn’t supposed to be climbing so high). And I can tell you from experience, that it didn’t matter if I BELIEVED in Gravity or NOT. It STILL pulled me down. For every fall. Every time.
Climate change is a bit like that. It really doesn’t matter if you BELIEVE in it or not. The polar ice caps are melting. We can measure it. We can be alarmed by it. Or not. We can try to understand it. Or not. But whether or not we BELIEVE it is happening, the ice is going to just keep on doing what ice does — freeze and melt — and at present, it seems to be melting faster than we expected it to. When someone asks me if I BELIEVE in climate change, or tells me they do, or tells me they don’t, I am not quite sure how to respond. The truth is, whether or not they BELIEVE, that is not going to change the weather. And whether or not I BELIEVE, this is not going to change the weather, either. If it is going to rain, it is going to rain. If it is going to snow, it is going to snow. And if it is going to be blazing hot, it is going to be blazing hot.
What matters is what we DO. I do believe it is very important to understand something as critical to us as our climate. Whether or not someone tells me they do or don’t believe in climate change, my job as a scientist is to help understand and answer that question. Fortunately, many, many, many scientists around the world also want to help understand our climate, and great progress is being made.
Whether or not I BELIEVE, the ToothFairy still brings quarters. For every tooth. Every time.
Whether or not I BELIEVE, Gravity still holds me tightly to the earth. For every fall. Every time.
Whether or not I BELIEVE, my actions really do impact the world I live in. For every action. Every time.