New issue of Daedalus features essays from sixteen climate change witnesses

‘Witnessing climate change’ addresses the greatest problem of our time

CAMBRIDGE, MA – September 24, 2020–This week, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the MIT Press published a new issue of Daedalus that features essays by sixteen prominent climate change witnesses, representing multiple fields, backgrounds, and generations. Guest edited by Nancy L. Rosenblum (Harvard University), the volume assembles personal narratives from men and women immersed in the greatest problem of our time, perhaps of all time.

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. 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.

Witnessing professionals 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.

  • Witnessing Climate Change includes the following essays:
  • “Introduction: Paths to Witnessing, Ethics of Speaking Out” by Nancy L. Rosenblum (Academy Member; Harvard University)
  • “On Becoming Witnessing Professionals” by Robert Jay Lifton (Academy Member; Columbia University; CUNY)
  • “What Is the Social Responsibility of Climate Scientists?” by Naomi Oreskes (Academy Member; Harvard University)
  • “Witnessing for the Middle to Depolarize the Climate Change Conversation” by Robert H. Socolow (Academy Member; Princeton University)
  • “The Professional Ethics of Witnessing Professionals” by Dennis F. Thompson (Harvard University)
  • “An Environmental Lawyer’s Fraught Quest for Legal Tools to Hold Back the Seas” by Michael B. Gerrard (Columbia University)
  • “Racism as a Motivator for Climate Justice” by Mark A. Mitchell (George Mason University)
  • “From Air Pollution to the Climate Crisis: Leaving the Comfort Zone” by Patrick L. Kinney (Boston University)
  • “Climate in the Boardroom: Struggling to Reconcile Business as Usual & the End of the World as We Know It” by Rebecca Henderson (Academy Member; Harvard University)
  • “Task Force Climate Change: A Patron Saint of Lost Causes, or Just Ahead of Its Time?” by David W. Titley (U.S. Navy; Penn State University)
  • “Seeing Is Believing: Understanding & Aiding Human Responses to Global Climate Change” by Elke U. Weber (Academy Member; Princeton University)
  • “Less Talk, More Walk: Why Climate Change Demands Activism in the Academy” by Jessica F. Green (University of Toronto)
  • “A Conversation” by Nancy L. Rosenblum (Academy Member; Harvard University) and Rafe Pomerance (Woods Hole Research Center)
  • “The Coral Is Not All Dead Yet” by Carolyn Kormann (The New Yorker)
  • “Slow Disaster in the Anthropocene: A Historian Witnesses Climate Change on the Korean Peninsula” by Scott Gabriel Knowles (Drexel University)
  • “Let Me Tell You a Story” by Antonio Oposa Jr. (Lawyer, SEA Camp)


To learn more about Daedalus and explore the issue, visit

Media Contacts

Amy Harris

Senior Marketing Manager

The MIT Press

[email protected]

About Daedalus

Representing the intellectual community in its breadth and diversity, Daedalus explores the frontiers of knowledge and issues of public importance. Drawing on the enormous intellectual capacity of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, whose members are among the world’s most prominent thinkers in the sciences, humanities, arts, and social sciences, as well as the professions and public life, each issue of Daedalus features multidisciplinary, authoritative essays centered on a theme or subject. For questions and more information, please contact [email protected]

About the MIT Press

Daedalus is published for the American Academy of Arts and Sciences by the MIT Press. Established in 1962, the MIT Press is one of the largest and most distinguished university presses in the world and a leading publisher of books and journals at the intersection of science, technology, art, social science, and design. MIT Press books and journals are known for their intellectual daring, scholarly standards, interdisciplinary focus, and distinctive design.

Media Contact
Amy Harris
[email protected]