Daniel Swain Profile picture
Feb 7 13 tweets 3 min read
Folks with self-described severe climate anxiety now reach out to me (& other climate scientists I know) essentially every week. It is often hard to know how to respond, since climate scientists are not trained clinical psychologists. (1/12)
The nature and volume of these requests can become overwhelming for those not professionally equipped to help people in that way. This is especially frustrating since many of these folks have actually sought professional help, yet those practitioners have been dismissive...(2/12)
...telling people that climate change won't affect them personally, or that it's "not as bad as you read about in the news," or that there's nothing they can do about it, so you need to "let it go." Well, as many folks who are paying attention realize, none of this is true.(3/12)
Some of these anxieties are quite valid (and indeed, are shared by many climate scientists). But increasingly many seem to stem from (misleading or outright false) "doomist"/defeatist narratives that have become increasingly prominent in the past few years. (4/12)
"It's too late to do anything about climate change." "Runaway warming has begun; climate change is now unstoppable." "Life on Earth/human civilization will end in [5 to 30] years." There is no empirical basis for any of these claims, yet I hear them over and over again. (5/12)
I often try to explain this to folks (gently). Sometimes it helps. But often folks start sending me links to blog posts, media appearances, and videos of (non experts) making increasingly extreme and scientifically unfounded claims about climate change. (6/12)
Often this information asymmetry becomes exhausting or impossible to contextualize in a setting of extreme anxiety. For the subset of folks who have reached out with extreme levels of climate anxiety, I'm honestly not confident my partial reassurances are very helpful. (7/12)
This is a bit of a meandering thread, but I just wanted to emphasize a few things. First: climate anxiety is (clearly) a real thing for growing number of people, despite widespread claims to contrary. For some folks, it can be severe--affecting every aspect of their lives.(8/12)
Second, climate scientists are not equipped to be on the front lines of the surge in climate anxiety--there really need to be more clinicians and practitioners who specialize in this (or who at least have a basic handle on the underlying climate realities!) (9/12)
And finally: before folks get angry at climate scientists for "tone policing," and calling out climate misinformation of all kinds (including factually incorrect doomist tropes)--please understand that this is (one of) the many reasons we do so. (10/12)
Climate scientists know better than anyone that climate change is a global crisis, and that key climate impacts are accelerating with each additional fraction of a degree of warming. But we also know that it's ultimately a problem within our collective power to solve. (11/12)
As the late climate scientist Steve Schneider once said: "Good for us" and "The end of the world" are the two least likely outcomes when it comes to climate change--and that context is still every bit as relevant today as it was when he said it over a decade ago. (12/12)
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More from @Weather_West

Jan 5
Our new study on co-occurring air pollution extremes (ozone & PM2.5), led by @wx_statman & w/co-authors including @ClimateChirper, @climate_guy, & @Weather_West, is out today in @ScienceAdvances. We find large increases in co-occurrences in U.S. West.(1/n) science.org/doi/full/10.11…
Increasing air pollution co-occurrence trends are widespread across the U.S. West over the last ~20 years, and encompass almost all of the West's major population centers from the Rocky Mountain Front Range to the Pacific Coast. (2/n) science.org/doi/full/10.11…
This increasing trend in co-occurring high levels of two key classes of air pollutants, ozone (photochemical pollution; think smog) & PM2.5 (fine particulate matter; think smoke) is almost entirely due to increasing frequency of extreme PM2.5 events. science.org/doi/full/10.11… (3/n)
Read 14 tweets
Dec 31, 2021
Some photos, footage, and commentary from yesterday's devastating #MarshallFire in Boulder County. All photos and videos taken at various points along South Boulder Road (north side of the fire, looking south, on 12/30/21). Winds were gusting around 90mph at the time. #COwx (1/4)
Fire behavior was as you'd expect in grass/brush amid extreme wind & drought conditions: rapid rates of spread, continuous spotting and periodic sheeting fire. Fire jumped 6-lane Hwy 36 like it was nothing, and there was a 2+ mile long active fireline. #MarshallFire #COwx (2/4)
Behavior and dynamics of the fire plume were fascinating...and scary. A nearly horizontal plume, tilted by extreme westerly downslope winds, transitioned into a shallow pyroCu plume at the top of a hydraulic jump within a pronounced mountain wave. #MarshallFire #COwx (3/4)
Read 5 tweets
Dec 30, 2021
Conditions along South Boulder Road right now. #marshallfire #COwx
Unfortunately can confirm that numerous structures are now burning, many of them homes. This is an extreme/dangerous wildland-urban interface fire. Mainly Superior/Louisville. Gusts in excess of 80mph continue.
Read 4 tweets
Dec 30, 2021
Serious wind driven brush fire in wildland-urban within/just south of Boulder, CO city limits. Along Marshall road. Estimating downslope wind gusts near 90 mph. #COwx @NWSBoulder @mitchellbyars
Multiple structures burning/extreme rate of spread from my vantage point.
Read 5 tweets
Dec 29, 2021
As a climate scientist, one aspect of #DontLookUp that resonates strongly is notion that an otherwise solvable planetary crisis will go away if we just ignore it--or that a silver bullet solution will magically present itself. Spoiler alert: it won't. @davidsirota @GhostPanther
Also highly relatable was the impassioned and exasperated rant by @LeoDiCaprio's character. There's a reason why much of the climate science community has responded to this film in a similar way--variations on a theme of "yep, that's all uncomfortably familiar."
It can become exhausting to constantly be the bearer of bad news when many folks simply don't want to hear it. "Why are you always so negative? You always focus on the harm from climate change, not the economic opportunities! Scientists are such pessimists."
Read 5 tweets
Nov 17, 2021
Being a climate scientist sometimes feels like being an astrophysicist in one of those 90s asteroid impact disaster movies...
except instead of coming to together to save humanity, the people in power shrug & point out how sending rockets might increase inflation. #ClimateChange
I was once, coincidentally, seated on a flight next to a @NASAJPL scientist who described his job as "taming near-Earth asteroids" from a planetary protection perspective. This is a person who would actually be called to the White House in scenarios portrayed in Hollywood films.
The JPL near-Earth object specialist made it clear that he was more concerned about #ClimateChange than an asteroid impact--not because latter wouldn't be devastating, but because the odds were low in our lifetime & "we would actually do something about it, if it ever came."
Read 4 tweets

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