Don’t think that the climate debate has nothing to do with ego. We must understand that professions take on collective identities and fight for relevance and recognition just like people do. If you don’t believe that, you have never watched a single episode of The Big Bang Theory or drawn a breath in the world of work. Accounting, legal, engineering, HR and manufacturing are always fighting for preeminence within a business…no professional group is immune.
Professional jealousy and snobbery is rife in the scientific world and like any social system, a pecking order evolved. Then came “climate science” – the misshapen bastard child of the forbidden union of first cousins – true science and social science. Until this Quasimodo of science was let out of the basement, the climateers were viewed as being something lower than, say, geologists. They were roughly equivalent to alchemists and water-witchers (the good folks who locate water with dowsing rods).
The debate over climate change has done some remarkable things for the people who study, report and make their living with weather as their raw material. First, it has transformed the science of weather into an actual industry and secondly, it has promoted weather folks from a support role (reporting past and current weather events and attempting to forecast them) to a front seat on the national (and global) policy making scene.
Weather nerd Nirvana…and once you get there, you will do anything necessary to stay.
No doubt this is intoxicating, it is the equivalent of the low-born stable boy being promoted to the King’s most trusted adviser. It is analogous to the Biblical story of Joseph and his Technicolor Dream Coat – of being cast into a pit, taken as a slave but in the end, being elevated to the most trusted man in the kingdom after successfully interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams.
You report and predict the weather, you are relevant for a few days. You work with the climate, now there’s where the money is. You can influence the policies of entire nations. Weather is temporary and only provides the opportunity for situational and reactionary responses – take cover, bring an umbrella, break out the snow shovel – but profess to predict the climate, and even better – a climate catastrophe, one that cannot be measured in the short term, and you get to become Grand Vizier to the exalted Pharaohs of the world.
Hey, it ain’t as good as being king but it beats the hell out of doing the weekend weather on the local channel.