EGU23-8173, updated on 25 Feb 2023
EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

The specific responsibility of geoscientists in the midst the climate and ecological crises: a need to address personal and institutional dissonances

Odin Marc1, Elodie Duyck2, Laurent Lassabatère3, Iñigo Viton4, and Marthe Wens5
Odin Marc et al.
  • 1Geosciences Environnement Toulouse, UMR5563, Université de Toulouse, CNRS - IRD - UPS - CNES, Toulouse, France(
  • 2Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, Texel, Netherlands
  • 3Ecologie des Hydrosystèmes Naturels et Anthropisés, UMR5023, Université de Lyon, CNRS, ENTPE, Université Lyon 1, Vaulx-en-Velin, France.
  • 4Geological Science Faculty, Complutense University of Madrid, Madrid, Spain
  • 5Institute for Environmental Studies, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Netherlands

The climate and ecological crises question the role and responsibility of scientists and scientific institutions as producers and conveyers of knowledge. Decades of thorough reporting, efforts at communication towards policy makers, and strong-worded scientific warnings, have not yet lead to policy changes significant enough to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and halt environmental degradation. This questions whether geoscientists and scientific institutions should remain distanced from the political and societal implications of their research work, or if on the contrary they have a responsibility to lead by example and to use their position to press for urgent action on the climate and ecological crisis. 

We argue that the failure of governments and international institutions to address these crises at the appropriate scale gives scientists and scientific institutions a responsibility to be more than mere producers of knowledge.  Indeed, doing “science as usual” while warning of the ever growing urgency to act on the climate and ecological crisis risks is widening the already-existing dissonance between, on the one hand, our stated raison d’être and discourses and on the other hand, our everyday practice and institutional mechanisms ; effectively undermining our impact on the broader society.

We first discuss the issue of scientific institutions and the scientific community at large not yet leveling with the urgency to address the climate and ecological crises. A prominent example is that despite repeated campaigns for universities to severe ties with the fossil industry, most  are still accepting sponsoring and research funding from fossil companies, which contributes to the legitimization of companies that have been and are still actively opposing effective climate action. While some universities are taking initiatives to limit carbon intensive behavior such as flying, serve plant-based food as a standard, stop accepting polluting companies on campuses, or include climate education in all curriculums, these are still individual initiatives, dependent on the voluntary mobilization from student and staff.

 We then argue that we, as geoscientists, can not only lead by example with individual changes to our lives, but can also have a strong impact when engaging in collective action, pressing our universities and governments to enact strong climate and environmental policies. Public engagement of universities, of other scientific institutions, and of scientists can amplify and legitimize the voice of the climate and environmental movements in a mutually beneficial science-society approach, notably because the former produce the very scientific knowledge empowering these movements.  We propose to discuss recent examples, including from our own experience, of the impact of scientists engaging in demonstrations and civil disobedience as part of environmental groups, at the ethical level, but also regarding consequences within and outside of academic circles.

How to cite: Marc, O., Duyck, E., Lassabatère, L., Viton, I., and Wens, M.: The specific responsibility of geoscientists in the midst the climate and ecological crises: a need to address personal and institutional dissonances, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-8173,, 2023.