Science Direct: Clinton Rakich

Clinton Rakich works as a climatologist advising the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change. He is one of our featured experts on Climate Change.

After growing up on a family farm in the dry eastern wheatbelt of Western Australia I became interested in all the vagaries of the weather and climate. I then completed an Environmental Science degree at Murdoch University in Perth which included some subjects relating to meteorology. After graduation I worked and travelled overseas for 3 years, mostly in Canada, US, UK and Europe.

I was accepted into the Bureau of Meteorology in 2003. The Bureau has further fostered and supported my interest in the mechanisms producing climate variability in Australia. In 2007 I was awarded a Bureau scholarship and commenced research with Macquarie University on the causes of rainfall variability in eastern Australia. In 2008 I began working as a climatologist advising the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change. In 2009 I commenced a Doctoral program in Climate Science at UNSW's Climate Change Research Centre.

General/personal questions:

  1. What did you want to be when you grew up? Astronaut or an Astronomer or a Volcanologist
  2. The idea/s that changed my life was/were...That I need to explore another country. Everything changed after that point.
  3. I'm always being asked about...How tall I am and whether I play basketball.
  4. My worst job has been... Package handler at a courier express depot. Watching parcels speed past me on thousands of mesmorising rollers at between 2 and 5am. It took a lot of strength just to stay awake some mornings!
  5. I often wonder...what the world would have been like without the Bush family inhabiting the White House TWICE.
  6. I hope that...people and governments stop talking and thinking solely in dollars and current economic growth and start thinking about what is best for their families and their communities both locally, nationally and globally in 20 or 30 or 40 years time.
  7. The best thing about my job is....that it is constantly evolving as research into the science and impacts of climate change continues and the communities awareness of the problem grows.
  8. The hardest thing about my job is...keeping up to speed with all the developments and research. It is also very hard to stay calm when ignorant people try to spread misinformation through the media about climate change that has no scientific basis or credibility.

Climate change specific questions:

  1. What climate change means for me personally is...the greatest science experiment humans have ever conducted. The only problem is we are all living in the middle of this experiment and we don't really know what could happen because no similar experiment has ever been tried before. I therefore see it as the greatest threat to our home (Earth) in our history.
  2. Climate change affects my work by...pulling together scientists from all different disciplines to discuss what can be done to mitigate climate change and adapt to its impacts. There has never before been a global problem which has affected so many elements of society and so many disciplines of science concurrently. It has also meant the governments and the people of the world are more aware and interested in earth sciences than ever before. The demand for information from the media has sky rocketed in recent years.
  3. My work may affect how we respond to climate change by...educating the community and building a stronger understanding of the issue. Armed with this new knowledge they influence their local, state and national governments and the business community to act to prevent further climate change. I also research the cause of decadal droughts and floods in Australia and I am attempting to find if these alternating wet and dry phases are being affected by climate change.
  4. What I would say to climate change skeptics me the published peer reviewed literature which supports your claims. PLEASE! (I know that they cannot)
  5. What I would say to you about what you can do about climate change is...write to your member of local, state and federal government and express your concern to them. When deciding where you want to live try to think of how much healthier you will be and how much time, money and petrol you will save when you live within walking or riding distance to your places of work, study or leisure. Purchase produce that is made close to your home and purchase electricity from renewable sources. Be energy efficient when and where you can. Recycle, not only does it reduce landfill waste it reduces energy usage. Producing products from raw materials often is much more energy intensive than producing them from recyclable materials.
  6. What I think Australia can do is...positively influence the outcome of the Copenhagen conference later in the year. It is crucial that the Copenhagen conference produce an international agreement which begins to reduce global greenhouse gas concentrations. Australia should become a world leader in renewable energy technology. We have immense solar, wind, wave and geothermal resources that are effectively untapped. We need to build a real economy away from carbon polluting coal and oil. We have to properly support our schools of renewable energy research. We also need to start planning our cities and towns to maximize lifestyle and minimize roads. Australia can take freight and commuter travel from its roads and put them back on adequately resourced rail networks, this will dramatically reduce our reliance on carbon polluting oil. Australia can also assist in the development of an economic framework which gives carbon polluting companies the ability to balance their emissions by protecting the carbon and the biodiversity stored in the earths remaining rainforest and forest belts whilst also assisting the sustainable development of the local communities in these regions. Australia should simply be a role model for the other nations of the world as we are to be one of the most affected countries on Earth.

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