Kevin Noone's Journey: A call for scientists to shape the future of climate research

An insight into Professor Noone's involvement with Bolin Centre

I've been blessed with being able to go and do hard science for decades. But what I want to do with the time I have left is try to see if we can actually start solving these problems.

Photo: Elin Noone
Photo: Elin Noone

In an interview with Kevin Noone, Professor at Stockholm University's Department of Environmental Science (ACES) and a dedicated member of the Bolin Centre, we explore his journey with the Bolin Centre for Climate Research. Professor Noone's experiences and reflections offer valuable insights for scientists seeking to contribute meaningfully to climate research.

Professor Noone vividly recalls being part of the team that worked on the initial proposal for the creation of the Bolin Centre. A group of six or seven people get together to submit a proposal that would eventually secure funding for the Bolin Centre. Despite the strangeness of the process and significant last-minute changes, their collective efforts bore fruit, and the Bolin Centre was granted the support it needed.

While Professor Noone initially found the Bolin Centre's structure less captivating, a turning point came when Alasdair Skelton and Nina Kirchner assumed leadership roles. Their vision steered the Bolin Centre from purely conventional climate science towards actively addressing climate issues and proposing solutions. This transformative shift sparked Professor Noone's interest, prompting him to delve deeper into the Bolin Centre's work.


The Bolin Centre's ongoing mission - Bridging the gap between science and societal impact

Reflecting on the Bolin Centre's new strategic plan, Professor Noone emphasizes the lasting tension between hard science and societal impact. His passion lies in steering scientific efforts towards contributing significantly to societal goals and effectively addressing pressing climate issues.

In a world obsessed with quantitative indicators, Professor Noone advocates for a more nuanced approach to measuring impact. He believes that the essence lies not in numbers but in the positive influence and contribution to societal goals. The lines from a song of Cat Stevens, "If I make a mark in time, I can't say the mark is mine; I’m only the underline of the word" resonates with him, emphasizing the collective nature of impactful change.


The Climate Arena project is a multi-stakeholder search for solutions to the climate crisis

Professor Noone highlights the significance of the Climate Arena project, created to understand the complexities of involving various parties in dealing with the climate crisis. Acknowledging it, he remains optimistic about the project's potential impact, despite facing challenges such as attrition.

Expressing his frustration, Professor Noone emphasizes the lack of sufficient support for initiatives like the Climate Arena, even when aligned with the University's goals. He points out a noticeable gap between stated priorities and actual resource allocation, challenging the commitment to the stated objectives. Professor Noone delves into the puzzling scenario where outreach initiatives like the Climate Arena, vital for the University's third task, struggle to secure the necessary resources. Despite their potential to contribute significantly to societal goals, these initiatives often face neglect, raising questions about the sincerity in prioritizing these crucial endeavours.

As the Bolin Centre's focus sways back towards fundamental science, Professor Noone expresses a nuanced perspective. While he acknowledges a certain level of disappointment with the perceived lack of progress in solving the climate crisis, he redirects his energy towards activities like community science and the Thriving Earth Exchange, seeking avenues where his efforts can foster tangible change.

In terms of potential steps forward, Professor Noone emphasizes the importance of learning from or actively engaging with initiatives like the Thriving Earth Exchange. He envisions a future where the Bolin Centre can contribute to community science, making a positive impact on communities that may not have previously interacted with scientific initiatives. The Thriving Earth Exchange's success in working with communities could be adapted for the European context believes Professor Noone. He hopes to witness the Bolin Centre actively pursuing connections with similar initiatives, fostering positive change and making science more accessible and useful.

During the interview, Professor Noone highlighted the Researchers' Desk as a commendable example of collaboration between researchers and the broader community. He emphasized that this organization serves as a valuable model for active engagement with society. Researchers' Desk, with its commitment to spreading knowledge and fostering dialogue, reflects the kind of outreach initiatives that align with the Bolin Centre's goals. Professor Noone encouraged the Bolin Centre’s leadership to explore similar avenues of cooperation to enhance its impact and contribute meaningfully to addressing climate challenges.

In conclusion, Professor Kevin Noone's journey provides an inspiring story for scientists to engage more deeply with the Bolin Centre's work. He prompts scientists to review priorities, bridge the gap between hard science and societal impact, and acknowledge the challenges in obtaining funding for these actions. This serves as a call to action for scientists to actively contribute to shaping the future of climate research. The Bolin Centre, with its dynamic and evolving mission, awaits the collective efforts of passionate scientists ready to make a lasting impact on our planet's future.

The interview with Professor Kevin Noone and the article is authored by Maria Basova.