Socolow, Weber recount experiences ‘witnessing’ climate change in essays for Dædalus

Morgan Kelly ・ Princeton Environmental Institute

Princeton faculty Robert Socolow and Elke Weber are among 16 prominent climate scientists and scholars featured in the Fall 2020 issue of the journal Dædalus who provided personal narratives about their responsibility to share — and their experiences sharing — what they know about climate change and how we can take action. Socolow and Weber are associated faculty members in the Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI).

Socolow, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, emeritus, writes in his freely available essay, “Witnessing for the Middle to Depolarize the Climate Change Conversation,” about the need to depolarize contentious public issues and create effective coalitions. “We need both middle-building and movement-building. They complement each other,” Socolow writes. “Witnessing on behalf of instant dramatic action on climate change has been productive: it has primed the pump. To bring about forceful and coherent activity going forward, however, I believe that witnessing for the middle will be essential.” Socolow is co-founder and former co-director of the Carbon Mitigation Initiative and a coordinator of the Climate Futures Initiative in Science, Values, and Policy (CFI).

Weber, the Gerhard R. Andlinger Professor in Energy and the Environment and professor of psychology and the School of Public and International Affairs, traces her academic voyage from studying human perceptions of financial risk to the human response to climate change in her essay (subscribers only), “Seeing Is Believing: Understanding & Aiding Human Responses to Global Climate Change.” Weber writes: “I see my voyage as an exercise in applied hope, resisting the constraints that disciplines and academia try to place on scholars and helping others to do so as well, by both example and institution-building.” Weber is on the CFI steering committee.

The current issue of Dædalus — which is published by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences — is the outgrowth of the “Witnessing Professionals and Climate Change Workshop” organized in 2018 by CFI; the University Center for Human Values (UCHV); the Center for Policy Research on Energy and the Environment (C-PREE); and the Anxieties of Democracy program at the Social Science Research Council. CFI is an interdisciplinary research program at Princeton administered by PEI and sponsored by PEI and UCHV.