Scientific American highlights a Marvel superhero

Kate MarvelYes, the title is a play on words, because the actual story here is that Climate Scientist Kate Marvel has launched Scientific American’s new Climate Science column …

I suppose I should begin by introducing myself. My name is Kate Marvel, and I’m a climate scientist at Columbia University and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. I want to stress that nothing I say here reflects the official view of these institutions, although it damn well should.

… We—the scientific community—don’t know everything. But we don’t know nothing. We’re surrounded by a world we don’t understand, and I think that wonderful things wait for us in that uncertainty. I want to talk about this beautiful, messy, funny, tragic planet and the terrible, wonderful humans who live here.

But I also want to be clear that climate change is real, and it’s us. I want you to understand how great certainty and great ignorance can coexist with each other. I’m so grateful you’re here, and you’re interested, and you’re reading this. We have something in common already—we’re roommates on the only planet that will have us. I love it here, and I want to know more about it. I hope you do too.

… and so I have another feed for my RSS reader.

Who Is Kate Marvel?

Yes, she really does work at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and so they will quite naturally list the various peer-reviewed scientific papers that she has authored or co-authored.

She also gave a TED talk in April 2017 about Clouds and their potential impact upon climate change. It has had over 1 million views, and if you are curious about that, then here it is …


Here are a couple of quotes from things she has said or written. Read these, and then you will begin to grasp why the term “Climate Science Marvel superhero” is not too far off the mark. What you will glean is that this is not somebody whose secret power is sleep inducement, but instead writes in a manner that will grasp you by the shoulders and give you a good shaking …

Asking a climate scientist whether global warming is real is like asking a physicist how come stuff falls down.

I show up to work every day. Some people believe this is because I am engaged in a global conspiracy that has somehow managed to coordinate the actions of scientists, the US military, the finance and insurance industries, most world governments, and, you know, the atmosphere and ocean. Such a conspiracy may exist, but I’m afraid I am not invited to their meetings, which sound much more fun than your average scientific conference and probably have open bars.  But I do my job precisely because there’s still so much to learn about this planet.  

Will we cut greenhouse gas emissions, continue on our current trajectory, or evolve toward a Mad Max style dystopia in which the main leisure activity is blowing up fuel tankers? I have no idea.

There is now no weather we haven’t touched, no wilderness immune from our encroaching pressure. The world we once knew is never coming back.

I have no hope that these changes can be reversed. We are inevitably sending our children to live on an unfamiliar planet. But the opposite of hope is not despair. It is grief. Even while resolving to limit the damage, we can mourn. And here, the sheer scale of the problem provides a perverse comfort: we are in this together. The swiftness of the change, its scale and inevitability, binds us into one, broken hearts trapped together under a warming atmosphere.

We continue to burn fossil fuels and the gases they make continue to trap heat, warming the air, the land, the shallow seas. The heat is mixed deep into the ocean, a long slow slog to equilibrium. There is no way to stop it.

What do I tell my son? A monster awaits in the deep, and someday it will come for you. We know this. We put it there.


Kate’s Blog, Marvel Climate, is here.

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