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Meet the Climate Scientists Travelling by Bike and Foot from the Poles to Paris

Two twenty-something climate scientists are currently running and cycling their way from the Antarctic and Arctic all the way to Paris.

Travelling a combined distance of 20,000 kilometres, the two scientists – plus team members joining them along the way – are working to raise awareness about climate change ahead of December’s Paris climate conference.

Meet Dr Daniel Price, UK specialist in Antarctic climate, and Dr Erlend Moster Knudsen, Norwegian specialist in Arctic climate.

Since the spring, the two have been hosting events with local communities along their journeys – Price, bringing a flag from the Antarctic as he makes his way up from New Zealand, covering some 17,000km by bike, and Knudsen, taking the lead on the 3,000km Northern Run beginning at the tip of Norway.  

And on the rare occasion that travel by land isn’t possible – say when going from Norway to the UK – carbon offsets from one of their partners, MyClimate.org, are used to compensate for the climate impacts of flying.

 

Erlend Moster Knudsen on the Northern Run.

DeSmog UK recently spoke with the two scientists over Skype as Knudsen was preparing to make his way from Norway to Cambridge, and Price, sitting in an Austrian hostel, was about to start his final leg through the Alps.

Knudsen and Price talk about their many experiences, from trying to close the gap between the scientific community and society when it comes to knowledge about climate change, to witnessing first-hand the number of people at risk from the impacts of climate change in the developing world.

Read the full interview below:

KM: How did this all come about? What inspired this idea of running and cycling from the poles to Paris?

EMK: As we were getting closer towards the end of our PhDs we realised more and more that we’re spending a lot of time conducting research that is only read by our fellow scientists whereas the big potential for improving our climate understanding is really among the general public.

I did my PhD in Arctic sea ice and Arctic climate whereas Dan did his PhD in Antarctic climate and Antarctic sea ice. So this kid of explains why we’re starting in the poles… But it’s also because those are the regions where climate change is occurring at the fastest rates.

DP: It was majorly driven by frustration. I sat down at my desk one day finishing up my PhD and I realised that even my parents didn’t know about COP21, even my parents who I babble on, complaining about my PhD to… didn’t even understand it. My closest friends weren’t even getting it, so there’s just this massive gap between science and society, which is really the problem, which I’ve come to realise even more during this as to how key it is that the more people that get this the faster we’ll move forward. So, that was kind of the driving factor for it all.

I decided I wanted to dedicate the rest of the year to public outreach because that’s the really key thing now, right? Doing all the science and no one understanding it is pretty pointless.

EMK: This is really an initiative to try and bridge the gap between academia and the general public, the understanding of climate change. So we’re trying to raise awareness of climate change and especially focusing on this climate summit that will take place this year in Paris.

DP: I think the gap is absolutely profound between the professional science level and the general public. And it’s exactly like you said what your main focus is [at DeSmog], sort of clearing this noise and disinformation. It’s just so important because it’s delayed us 20 years this active misinformation campaign by the fossil fuel industry… So that’s something I am super passionate about, just getting the facts straight because it’s painful and it’s so dangerous. I don’t know how we’re going to look back on these guys in an historical context. You can’t really do anything more evil than do that. It’s pretty painful.

KM: What has been the reaction so far when you engage with the public?

EMK: People I meet are very positive and I find also that most people have questions. They’re not denialists; they’re not climate denialists saying ‘Hey, I don’t believe in human induced climate change, it’s all a hoax’. People don’t say that. People have questions, they may have heard something from a neighbour, they might have read something in the newspaper, and so they’re like ‘oh, is this something related to this?’

DP: Definitely setting the facts straight and getting the key messages across is really important to tell the general public… Generally people are just, not necessarily in shock, but kind of had their eyes opened when they realised some of these basic facts in understanding how it all works. So that’s been really amazing to see.

KM: On a day-to-day basis what have your travels been like?

EMK: I didn’t do this only running on roads. I chose as much as I could to stay in the mountains and stay on paths and in forests, so I have covered a lot of elevation, been doing a lot of up and down… The reason why I chose to do this was that, first of all, I [want] to avoid injuries. When one person is running this far and I was running with a backpack… so you have a lot of stress on your knees and your legs… It also provides me with a lot of motivation running in nature.

DP: [For me,] it’s been pretty varied. It’s normally eight to ten hours of cycling a day on average… It was a bit tough to get used to at first [with 30 or 40kg of gear on your bike]. Typically [I’m] covering about 100km a day. Through segments in China and Mongolia, one of my friends joined me there, and we were averaging about 160km a day, so those were massive days. We tried to cycle from Beijing to Ulan Bator in Mongolia as fast as we could and managed to do it in eight days. That was an amazing experience going up through the Gobi there was really cool.

But once you get in, and Erlend I’m sure has the same experience, you’ve still got the project to run as well, so getting into your emails, planning down the line, and trying to get all those things sorted.

 

More images and original available here on DeSmogBlog

 

Thank you for fighting the good fight, Contributors!

 

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