Messages to the climate change conference in Paris

30.11.2015
The ongoing climate conference in Paris must mark a new era in the depressing history of climate negotiations. The University’s researchers and leadership send their greetings to the conference delegates.

The leadership of the University of Helsinki hopes that the climate change conference in Paris will result in a breakthrough. After the lengthy talks, we need action, says the University’s Rector Jukka Kola.

“Universities and academic research keep generating new information and solutions to mitigate and adapt to climate change. We must take this information and solutions into immediate use; we have no time to wait.”

“We must not just go with the flow and lament how Finland’s contribution is marginal at best. Instead, we must set a moral example in these negotiations,” states physicist, Academy of Finland Professor Timo Vesala, who has served as the editor for the publication series of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“Governments must pay the agreed amounts to the Green Climate Fund and not reduce their commitments, citing the poor economic situation or other reasons.”

“Experts have a great deal of research data and much to say about the use of peat or biomass energy. It is important to listen to researchers and other experts instead of making choices, such as the decision to use more peat as an energy source, motivated purely by politics and which are practically insane in light of the climate,” Vesala states.

Northern soot is a nasty surprise

Atte Korhola, professor of climate change, has some recent research results from his international research project that he would like to send to Paris.

The project’s researchers have unfortunately had to challenge the claim that the black carbon fallout which makes Arctic glaciers and snows darker, causing them to melt has decreased over the past few decades. Such optimistic estimates have been based largely on atmospheric measurements, whereas the new study has excavated glaciers and sediments.

“In some parts of the Eurasian Arctic area, black carbon deposition appears to be increasing dramatically. This is of crucial importance for international climate negotiations,” states Meri Ruppel from the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences and the first author of the recent study.

Black carbon, or soot, is the second most significant human-related factor in global warming, preceded only by carbon dioxide emissions. “In Arctic areas, black carbon has even more impact than greenhouse gases,” Ruppel points out. Black carbon is generated in all incomplete combustion, from diesel engines to forest fires, but in Arctic areas, the worst culprit is gas flaring, commonly used in oil and natural gas production.

“Creating funding instruments to reduce black carbon emissions is of vital importance,” says Professor Korhola, hoping that Paris will listen.

Atmosphere researcher, Academy of Finland Professor Markku Kulmala has also emphasised that available research results must be more specific and more data must be collected – while at the same time reducing emissions without delay and without waiting for a favourable political climate.

According to Professor Kulmala, one of the primary goals of Nordic climate cooperation is to establish a comprehensive measuring network which would enable the monitoring of greenhouse gases, aerosols and the biosphere – which the SMEAR station in Hyytiälä does.

Support for positive personal choices

Educator, Docent Hannele Cantell emphasises the significance of motivating citizens and valuing their efforts. Laws alone are insufficient, says Cantell, an active proponent of climate education and, like Timo Vesala, a member of the Finnish Climate Panel. “We must influence the way people behave and how they are motivated. Supporting responsible climate behaviour is key. We must persuade the masses to change their habits.”

“A growing number of people want to focus on climate-friendly energy solutions, for example. Political decisions should take into account the fact that citizens want to be more involved in climate affairs.”