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The Bjerknes Centre is a collaboration on climate research, between the University of Bergen, Uni Research, the Institute of Marine Research, Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Centre.

The reason why

Erlend with local company in Vågan, Lofoten.  Photo from Facebook

The reason why  

Erlend Moster Knudsen writes from his "Pole to Paris" life, a 3000 km run from Tromsø to Paris.  Four weeks into his run, he writes this text alone in a Northern Norway mountain cabin. 

Erlend Moster Knudsen, august 28, 2015, Susendalen, Norway

It's Friday night. My international friends are getting ready for a night out. My fellow Norwegians are preparing tacos and an evening in front of their TV to watch "gullrekka" (a popular TV shows). And myself? I'm alone in a small mountain cabin at the edge of the national park Børgefjell in Northern Norway. This is my Pole to Paris life.

It's been nearly four weeks since I started running from Tromsø. Over these weeks, I've covered some 800 km, stopping to talk about climate change and the need for action during the upcoming climate summit in Paris later this year. I've been to schools, universities, museums, scientific institutions and more, on y way  from Tromsø to Paris.

That's 3000 km. And I'm doing this willingly, without getting paid. Makes sense, right?

You want to know why I am doing it?

I launched the climate awareness campaign Pole to Paris together with my friend Daniel Price. We are both climate researchers; he a PhD in Antarctic climate and I a PhD in Arctic climate. We met at a summer school on Svalbard four years ago. Back then, we were young and optimistic, believing that more science is all our society needs to act upon climate change. Now, we have grown. And the climate science has grown with us, but climate action-wise, we are nearly at status quo.

Erlend Moster Knudsen at Saltstraumen
Erlend in front of Saltstraumen, Lofoten

Put simply: neither our politicians nor the rest of us are acting upon the threats of climate change. We have the tools but we are not using them.

That’s the motivation for Pole to Paris: spreading the word about climate change and the need to reach a binding agreement in Paris. We strive for a common voice - a voice that says that the time to act is now. This voice will be heard by our global leaders in Paris only if it comes from all across the world.

What an ambitious task! Two guys in their 20's taking on possibly the biggest challenge humans are yet to face…

We could not do this alone. We are a team. There are ten of us, all young, from nine different countries and from very diverse backgrounds. Besides we supported by our partners and sponsors. We couldn't have done this without them either. You really need all the support you can get when you stick your head out on climate change.

Pole to Paris starts in the polar regions. This is where the alarm bells are ringing first. Temperatures here rise several times faster than the global average. A reason for and cause of this is the large melt of ice masses at the two Poles. Every year, land ice on Greenland and Antarctica melts faster in summer than it refreezes in winter. As a result, this water ends up in the ocean, contributing to an accelerated sea level rise felt from the Pacific Islands to the American east coast.

The oceanic lids - the sea ice - is diminishing and thinning at an alarming rate in the Arctic and in parts of the Antarctic. For some, this means new opportunities for resource exploration or easier access to new markets; for others, this means a livelihood destroyed.

For a climate researcher, it opens up for a golden livelihood. Black gold that is. Because oil and gas companies are looking for people like me who know when the sea ice opens up or closes down their opportunities to drill in the Arctic. So don’t I play that game?

I don’t because there's something more important to me. So important that I decided to run 3000 km, supported only by the backpack I'm carrying and climate neutral parcels sent to me every week. So important that I've taken the risk of sticking my head out, only to be made fun of by grumpy men online. So important that I will average 30 km per day to end up with aching muscles and Hobbit feet, in pouring rain, 8 degrees C and headwind of gale force (like today), over soggy marshes, hard asphalt and ice-cold rivers.

That something is called the determination to do act upon what you believe in. And I believe in the good of people. I believe that we can and will act if we only understand the issue. So my task is as simple as it is nearly impossible: make people realize that we've only got one planet. And our impact on it is changing it for the worse. It's up now to us to determine how much of it we want to leave for our neighbors, for our children and grandchildren.

Sometimes I think about my unborn children and grandchildren. They will judge us hard – with all their right. I want to tell them that I tried my best. That is all I can do.

So tomorrow morning I head back out into the wind and rain. It's the only way to Paris. It's the only way to a better future. And I'm running towards it.