Dr Penny Whetton, the renowned trans climate scientist, ‘dies in her favourite spot’

Penny Whetton in a forest

Dr Penny Whetton, the renowned trans climate scientist, has passed away unexpectedly, her wife Janet Rice has announced.

Rice, the senator for Victoria, Australia, announced Whetton’s passing on Sunday, September 15.

She paid tribute to a “scientist, artist, nature lover, knowledge seeker [and] all round beautiful human”.

“I’ve got such sad news,” Rice wrote on Facebook.

“My darling beloved Penny passed away suddenly and apparently peacefully at our house in Sisters Beach, Tasmania on Wednesday evening (September 11).”

Penny was intelligent, creative and able to turn her hand and her intellect to almost anything.

Rice said that Whetton was found on Thursday morning “in her favourite spot in one of her favourite places in the world”, sitting on their sofa, with her computer in her lap.

“Penny was intelligent, creative and able to turn her hand and her intellect to almost anything, from the climate science that was her profession, to landscape painting and furniture making,” Rice continued.

“She was principled and loyal, a collaborative leader, and a mentor to many.”

Penny Whetton was a leading climate change scientist.

Whetton was a lead author on three United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, including the fourth assessment report, which was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.

From 1992 until 2014 she worked with Australia’s federal research body, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), leading its national climate projections.

“She was deeply angry about current politics that is hurtling us to avoidable climate crisis, and deeply worried about the damage being done and the future prospects for our precious natural world,” wrote Rice.

Penny Whetton and Janet Rice were together 38 years.

It was during university that Whetton and Rice first began dating, and were wed three years later.

Whetton came out as trans 16 years into their marriage, following the births of their two sons John and Leon.

Penny Whetton and Janet Rice

Penny Whetton and Janet Rice. (Facebook/Penny Whetton)

“Penny and I had been a team for almost 38 years,” Rice wrote. “She was my rock, my best friend, my biggest fan. She was proud of me and I of her. She was a fabulous parent to John and Leon -always supportive, giving, and delighted in sharing her and their passions.

“We journeyed with her in her gender affirmation, and loved her all the more. She was a role model and an inspiration for so many trans and gender diverse people.”

LGBT+ leaders pay tribute to Penny Whetton.

Leading members of Australia’s LGBT+ community eulogised Whetton as a trans leader.

Sally Rugg, executive director of Change.org Australia, said she was “part of the heartbeat of the LGBTIQ activist community”.

“She was kind, generous and always had time for people,” she tweeted.

Rodney Croome, founder of Australian Marriage Equality, former national director of Australian Marriage Equality, said that he was “overwhelmed with sadness” at Whetton’s untimely passing.

“Penny and I only met recently but I found her conversation enthralling, her ideas profound and her knowledge vast,” he wrote.

“I looked forward to talking with Penny again many times in the years to come. Now, there are no years to come.”

A memorial fund in Whetton’s name to aid revegetation and erosion control work at Sisters Beach will be announced in due course.