The timing of my wedding should have been impeccable. For years, I had dreamt of having the perfect winter wonderland ceremony, so when I got engaged last year, my American fiancé and I made that vision a reality by having February nuptials in my family church in Finland, just South of the Arctic Circle. When the day finally came, however, my belief in everlasting love was overshadowed by a new revelation; as I stood in a puddle of slush, feeling the first drops of warm rain on my face instead of the snowflakes I had been expecting, I realized that climate change is less about believing than it is about seeing. This I believe.
As a scholar of climate science, I rarely poke my head into the arena of public opinion, but after being asked if I “believed in climate change” for what had to be the millionth time, I started asking myself if this issue really belongs in the same realm as God, or Capitalism, or whether I think I’ll choose those lucky numbers someday. With both feet planted firmly in the Ivory Tower, I used to marvel that any reasonable person would require a leap of faith to jump onto the climate change bandwagon. But when I examined my feelings about the issue, I realized that I needed to reaffirm my own belief, despite the fact that I immerse myself in compelling scientific evidence of climate change every day.
Climate change lies at an uncomfortable crossroads between scientific and public opinion, and I found that I wasn’t sure I fully believed in either. While I would, on the one hand, convince myself that man-made climate is not only possible, but upon us, I could not, on the other hand, ignore the niggling uncertainties in the data and projections. The social debate perplexed me even further, as I saw genuine concern and scientific rhetoric blended all too often with a philosophy of deniability as well as the politics of gain and acceptable losses.
As a climate scientist, I know very well that history is rife with anomalous weather events that are not linked to any kind of broader climate change. But what one rainy wedding day did convince me of was that the human mind sometimes requires tangible events, rather than trends and statistics, to turn belief into reality. Sometimes it just takes a little something extra, the experience of seeing, to make that ever-so-critical leap of faith. This I believe.