Footnote to haters

I just returned from a month-long vacation, which included a four-day conference in Bucharest, Romania that I attended using personal leave.  I had vacation I wanted to use up, having taken very little non-work-related time off for the past several years.   I’d rather use it for this than to take a pay-out from the taxpayers when I retire.

I gave two presentations, chaired a session, sat on a discussion panel, served on the program committee, and spent every evening networking and having technical discussions with colleagues.  The hours were long.  No US taxpayer funds were spent on my travel or time.

The subject of the conference was planetary defense.  Much of the discussion centered on how to save the earth from an impending global catastrophe.  The last conference on this subject was two years ago in Granada, Spain.  I used personal time and funds to attend that one, too.

I’m not writing this to whine about lack of funding for planetary defense, but to illustrate the fact that those of us who are worried about the the future of our planet are dedicated, and are not in it for the money.   If I didn’t have a kid to support and a mortgage to pay, I’d be willing to do this work full time for nothing.   That’s not to say that I don’t think that saving our planet and insuring the future of our children and our nation is worthy of significant funding.

When I saw a footnote in a recent letter by James Hansen this morning, it resonated.

Footnote #2:  Note to the people who send me messages (SOMETIMES SHOUTING IN ALL CAPS) demanding that I stop wasting THEIR MONEY and get out of the government: When I was in New Zealand I was on vacation, using up time accumulated years ago when I seldom took vacation. By taking the New Zealand vacation I am reducing taxpayers’ costs, because I would otherwise be paid (when I retire) a lump sum for the vacation days that I did not use. Your blood pressure might come down a notch further if you saw the nature of the “vacation”: slave-driver Jeanette Fitzsimons unceremoniously routing me out of bed at 6 or 7 AM every day to get moving to the next town – not exactly a case of sipping pina colada on a beach.

BTW, do you really believe that scientists make up or exaggerate global warming to get research funds? Our salaries do not depend on how much research the government funds. Government scientists get paid for working 40 hours a week, regardless of how long they work. My wife claims it is about 90 hours a week, but I say about 80. If you succeed in getting the government to cut back on science, because you don’t like the results, the main effect will be erosion of our competiveness relative to other nations. Your hounding of scientists does not bother me, but it may discourage young people from entering the profession, contributing to a national spiral into second or third rate technical and economic status. Perhaps, instead of questioning the motives of scientists, you should turn around and check the interests (motives) of the people who have pushed you to become so agitated.

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