Mike was the director of the Climate Change Institute at Australian National University and something of a giant among climate change researchers.
Over the years, I’ve called and emailed Mike many times to check this, that and the other. He was one of my first “contacts” on climate science.
From my perspective, I always appreciated his candour, lack of pretension and his unwillingness to speak outside his realm of expertise. I also appreciated his patience in explaining what the science did and did not say in the face of my barrage of often confused questioning.
Last year I asked a bunch of climate scientists about the state of the public discussion. What were the things that bugged them most? Mike’s response was typically thoughtful.
The greatest cause for sorrow is the widespread inability of the public discussion to recognise the whole picture.
Much of the political discourse reduces the complexities of climate change to political football (“axe the tax”); much media reporting sees only the hook to today’s passing story; many interest groups want to use climate change to proselytise for their particular get-out-of-jail free card (nuclear power, carbon farming).
All of this misses or trivialises the real, systemic significance of climate change: that humankind is encountering the finitude of our planet, confronting the need to share and protect our endowment from nature, and realising that much will have to change to make this possible.
The Australian Science Media Centre is posting tributes to Mike. Thoughts with Mike’s family, colleagues and friends.