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Research or Report

Keeping the heart a long way from the brain: The emotional labour of climate scientists

Lesley Head
Theresa Harada
Published In
Emotion, Space and Society
Published Date
August 2017
Subject Area



This paper contributes to increased understanding of emotions and climate change through a study of the emotional management strategies employed by a sample of Australian climate scientists. We bring three broad areas of literature into conversation in order to think more productively about climate change and emotion: recent applications of the concept of emotional labour, studies of the role of emotion in science, and feminist perspectives on the performative role of emotions. In response to contextual drivers that include the social norms of science, a strong climate denialist influence and the preservation of self and family, these scientists mobilize a range of behaviours and strategies to manage their emotions around climate change and the future. These include emphasizing dispassion, suppressing painful emotions, using humour and switching off from work. Emotional denial or suppression of the consequences of climate change worked to enable the scientists to persevere in their work. This study suggests that painful emotions (anxiety, fear, loss) around climate change need to be acknowledged and discussed.