On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, climate scientist Paul Beckwith talks about his research as well as about his efforts to push beyond the usual role expected of scientists and engage directly with the public on scientific questions related to cliamte 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. But at lesat 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, all of which he hopes 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.
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. To learn more about the show in general, click here.
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Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Sudbury, Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.