After a few years in the Geography Department at Monash University, Whetton became a climate scientist at Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), and was the main contributor to, and editor of, CSIRO's Australian climate change projections released in 1992, 1996, 2001 and 2007.
In 1998, Whetton came out to Janet first as a cross-dresser and then as transgender, and four years after that in 2003 changed her name to Penny and had transgender surgery.
This was the same time as Rice, a Greens politician was elected to Maribyrnong council; she was elected Mayor in 2006.
Whetton was a lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Third Assessment Report, and of the Fourth Assessment Report which was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize (jointly with Al Gore). She is contributing to the Fifth.
Rice was elected to the Federal Senate as a Greens member in 2013.
In an interview in 2014, Janet said:
“Look, I think we’re pretty normal. We’ve been married 28 years. Penny transitioned from Peter to Penny – we stayed married, we still love each other.”In her maiden speech in the Senate, Rice said:
“The time for marriage equality in Australia has come. I'm here for all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people and their families. We deserve recognition and respect in all aspects of our lives.”++Penny died peaceably age 61
- "Gender changes, but a wife's love stays". The Age, September 9, 2007. www.theage.com.au/news/national/gender-changes-but-a-wifes-love-stays/2007/09/08/1188783562207.html.
- "Penny Whetton: Climate change science in focus". ECOS, 18 September 2013, www.ecosmagazine.com/?paper=EC13210.
- Matt Akersten. "New Senator's proud to be in a same-sex marriage". Samesame, 9th Jul, 2014. www.samesame.com.au/news/11120/New-Senators-proud-to-be-in-a-same-sex-relationship.
- Tina Perinotto. "Penny Whetton and CSIRO on how 8 areas of Australia will fare under climate change". The Fifth Estate, 29 January 2015. www.thefifthestate.com.au/habitat/climate-change-news/penny-whetton-and-csiro-on-how-8-areas-of-australia-will-fare-under-climate-change/70998.
- "I still love her, we can stay married: The Senator and her transgender wife". SBS, 7 Feb 2015. www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2015/02/06/i-still-love-her-we-can-stay-married-senator-and-her-transgender-wife.
- Benjamin Law. "Transformers: the unique challenge of changing gender within a relationship". The Sydney Morning Herald, March 7, 2015. www.smh.com.au/good-weekend/transformers-the-unique-challenge-of-changing-gender-within-a-relationship-20150219-13jm4n.html.
- "Penny Whetton, wife of Senator Janet Rice, climate scientist and transgender woman, dies". ABC, 2019-09-17. www.abc.net.au/news/2019-09-17/penny-whetton-climate-scientist-and-wife-of-janet-rice-dies/11519308.