Guest Essay by Eric Worrall
Piers Sellers is a NASA climate scientist with Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer. His dying wish is that we should listen to his concerns about CO2 – but with the greatest respect, he is not saying anything new.
Cancer and Climate Change
I’M a climate scientist who has just been told I have Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
This diagnosis puts me in an interesting position. I’ve spent much of my professional life thinking about the science of climate change, which is best viewed through a multidecadal lens. At some level I was sure that, even at my present age of 60, I would live to see the most critical part of the problem, and its possible solutions, play out in my lifetime. Now that my personal horizon has been steeply foreshortened, I was forced to decide how to spend my remaining time. Was continuing to think about climate change worth the bother?
Last year may also be seen in hindsight as the year of the Death of Denial. Globally speaking, most policy makers now trust the scientific evidence and predictions, even as they grapple with ways to respond to the problem. And most Americans — 70 percent, according to a recent Monmouth University poll — believe that the climate is changing. So perhaps now we can move on to the really hard part of this whole business.
As for me, I’ve no complaints. I’m very grateful for the experiences I’ve had on this planet. As an astronaut I spacewalked 220 miles above the Earth. Floating alongside the International Space Station, I watched hurricanes cartwheel across oceans, the Amazon snake its way to the sea through a brilliant green carpet of forest, and gigantic nighttime thunderstorms flash and flare for hundreds of miles along the Equator. From this God’s-eye-view, I saw how fragile and infinitely precious the Earth is. I’m hopeful for its future.
And so, I’m going to work tomorrow.
As someone who has also been at death’s door, when my appendix ruptured two years ago, I have the deepest sympathy with Pier’s condition. Its horrible to look at your loved ones, and know that this might be the last time you see them.
However, it is disturbing that Sellers would attempt to use his dire personal health issues as an appeal to emotion, to promote his views about climate change. Science is supposed to be about reason, logic and evidence, not desperate appeals for sympathy. To me, Sellers’ attempt to conflate empathy for his condition, with an appeal for climate action, betrays the weakness of his science, and is symptomatic of the utter fanaticism which I believe lies at the heart of the climate craze.
When I was in hospital, I wasn’t thinking about the subject of my next climate post. I had other things on my mind.