Three HELSUS scientists are listed among the world's 1000 most influential climate scientists

Three HELSUS researchers were selected to the Reuters’ list of the world’s 1000 most influential climate scientists. We explored researchers’ thoughts on the impact of climate research and what motivates them to research topics related to climate change.

Miska Luoto is inspired by interdisciplinarity and diversity of climate research

Luoto is a Professor of Natural Geography at the Department of Geosciences and Geography. He is studying the effects of climate change on biota and permafrost, as well as the ecological effects and predictability of extreme weather phenomenon. In a project funded by the Academy of Finland, starting in September, Luoto and researchers from the Finnish Meteorological Institute are studying the sensitivity of Arctic ecosystems to climate change. Luoto got ranked 357th in the Reuters’ listing. 

For him, working as a leader of  the BioGeoClimate Modeling Lab research group is interesting and diverse: 

-The special features, dynamics, and significance of climate in the processes of both living and non-living nature are extremely fascinating. Sometimes the focus is on global macro-level observations over a period of thousands of years, and sometimes on short-term weather at the local level, for example the microclimate of a single patch of forest. Interdisciplinary research and working with scholars from different disciplines is the best opportunity to learn and discover something new, as opposed to always working within the parameters of one’s own discipline.

Luoto believes that the research plays an important role in influencing the climate discussion, although it does not always achieve its purpose as a decision-making tool: 

-Mitigation and adaptation to climate change requires a high level of scientific research, bolder cooperation, and cost-effective action by all actors. We have a great amount of research data to support climate policy, but concrete decisions and emission reduction promises by states and companies are still completely inadequate and often not based on research.

Sirkku Juhola researches ways to adapt to climate change 

Juhola is a Professor in the Ecosystems and Environment research program. Her research has specifically focused on climate change adaption. One of these is the HERCULES project, funded by the Academy of Finland, which examines the relationship between climate change, the urban environment, health, and decision-making. Juhola was ranked 483rd in the Reuters’ listing.  

Juhola finds her work meaningful but challenging, as the relationship between the environment and society is complex: 

-Climate change is one of the big drivers of change globally. It will change societies and societies on the other hand are constantly changing the climate. Understanding these relationships is important and difficult. It is vital to develop scientific methods and, as well, to provoke these actions and act in society. Global inequality and the effects of environmental change are societally important issues that cannot be ignored. 

Juhola sees that the role of a researcher to be studying and understanding the complex cause and effect relationships.  However, Juhola emphasizes the role of research as only one voice in the climate debate: 

-The scientific perspective is  not the only voice influencing decision-making in society. Many climate-related decisions are also value-based decisions, which is why I hope to have a broader debate in general about what really matters  in decision-making  

Timo Vesala is inspired by the interdisciplinary study of physiological and ecological phenomena 

Vesala is a Professor of Meteorology at the Center for Atmospheric Sciences  at University of Helsinki. He studies the circulation of water and carbon in lakes, forests, and swamps, as well as the exchange of material between the biosphere and the atmosphere. Vesala was ranked 861st in the Reuters’ listing. 

The most important inspiration for Vesala is to study nature and its processes:   

-I think I could be studying the same topics even if climate change would not happen. It is often forgotten that climate has been studied for a long time before the current climate crisis. Scientists are standing on each other’s shoulders, producing new knowledge on top of the existing one and complementing missing gaps of what we already know. 

Over the last ten years, the debate on climate has intensified. Vesala thinks that researchers’ task is to  produce and provide information in a way that everyone can understand it: 

-Researchers need to take part in ongoing discussion and share their knowledge. However, it is important to make a clear distinction between one’s opinion and a scientific fact. Researchers are not the ones making the decisions, as that is the responsibility of others. Even though, those decision-makers have often really different levels of willingness to use scientific knowledge as tool. 


HELSUS congratulates researchers on their successful research! 

You can read more about the listing on the Reuters’ website