Press Release
Fall 2020

Witnessing Climate Change: Personal Narratives, Professional Expertise


CAMBRIDGE, MA — (See Dædalus online) The many and varied dangers of climate change propel scientists, doctors, public health experts, social scientists, lawyers, journalists, business consultants, and military officers to speak out from the vantage point of their specialized knowledge. We call them witnessing professionals.

The Fall 2020 issue of Dædalus on “Witnessing Climate Change,” guest edited by Nancy L. Rosenblum (Academy Member; Harvard University), brings together essays by sixteen prominent witnesses, representing multiple fields, backgrounds, and generations. Their personal narratives describe paths into climate-related work, the constraints imposed on them by disciplinary boundaries and by standard codes of professional ethics, and the need to move beyond them. They act on the imperative to communicate widely what they know, and reflect on the broader ethical challenges and political demands of addressing decision-makers and the public. They build institutions to extend their work. Climate change shapes their professional identity and expands their sense of responsibility. They push the bounds of their fields and they push themselves as witnessing professionals.
The authors describe painful setbacks while balancing on the knife-edge of hope.

Select essays are available online. For questions and more information, please contact

The Fall 2020 issue of Dædalus on “Witnessing Climate Change” features the following essays:

Introduction: Paths to Witnessing, Ethics of Speaking Out
Nancy L. Rosenblum (Academy Member; Harvard University)

On Becoming Witnessing Professionals
Robert Jay Lifton (Academy Member; Columbia University; CUNY)

What Is the Social Responsibility of Climate Scientists?
Naomi Oreskes (Academy Member; Harvard University)

Witnessing for the Middle to Depolarize the Climate Change Conversation
Robert H. Socolow (Academy Member; Princeton University)

The Professional Ethics of Witnessing Professionals
Dennis F. Thompson (Harvard University)

An Environmental Lawyer’s Fraught Quest for Legal Tools to Hold Back the Seas
Michael B. Gerrard (Columbia University)

Racism as a Motivator for Climate Justice
Mark A. Mitchell (George Mason University)

From Air Pollution to the Climate Crisis: Leaving the Comfort Zone
Patrick L. Kinney (Boston University)

Climate in the Boardroom: Struggling to Reconcile Business as Usual & the End of the World as We Know It
Rebecca Henderson (Academy Member; Harvard University)

Task Force Climate Change: A Patron Saint of Lost Causes, or Just Ahead of Its Time?
David W. Titley (U.S. Navy; Penn State University)

Seeing Is Believing: Understanding & Aiding Human Responses to Global Climate Change
Elke U. Weber (Academy Member; Princeton University)

Less Talk, More Walk: Why Climate Change Demands Activism in the Academy
Jessica F. Green (University of Toronto)

A Conversation
Nancy L. Rosenblum (Academy Member; Harvard University) & Rafe Pomerance (Woods Hole Research Center)

The Coral Is Not All Dead Yet
Carolyn Kormann (The New Yorker)

Slow Disaster in the Anthropocene: A Historian Witnesses Climate Change on the Korean Peninsula
Scott Gabriel Knowles (Drexel University)

Let Me Tell You a Story
Antonio Oposa Jr. (Lawyer, SEA Camp)