Q: Where did you grow up?
A: Atte Harjanne grew up in the metropolitan area of Helsinki in Finland and attended Aalto University. Hard work and equality are highly valued in Finnish culture and the model of governance is adopted from the nation’s time as part of Sweden. Finland has brutal winters and short summers, but is especially prone to effects of climate change and the country is focused on preparedness as a whole.
Q: What challenges did your generation face?
A: Atte Harjanne sees his generation as the first international generation with the frequency and privilege of traveling abroad. Economic security is also pronounced in Finland, especially the younger generation who experienced a depression in the 1990’s after the Soviet Union left the country. Harjanne was always interested in history, but found himself studying the natural sciences. His master’s program is in engineering, but Harjanne’s role is currently focused on societal science. After some radical politics in the 1960’s and 1970’s, universities have seen strong study body movements and students becoming involved in making a better university community. Harjanne was a member of the National Coalition Party, a moderate right leaning group, but did not see environmental issues prioritized which altered his political views.
Q: What do Finnish politics look like overall?
A: Atte Harjanne is a member of the Green Party in Finland. The current biggest party in Finland is the Central Party, which is the old Agrarian Party, considered moderate right and typically conservative and is extremely popular outside big cities. National Coalition Party is the moderate right wing party popular in the metro areas that has liberal stances towards the market, but also some strong conservative views. The Social Democratic Party is the main moderate left party which consists of social liberals that support higher taxes and broader welfare. All the Finnish parties are committed to the idea of the welfare state and progressive taxation. The True Finns are the conservative right wing movement, but are not considered extremists. In Helsinki and other cities, the Green Party has a strong presence and a major portion of the party represents a focus on science and education. There are other smaller parties throughout Finland which don’t have seats in Parliament but have seats in civic office.
Q: How did you see yourself taking on a major political role?
A: Atte Harjanne has worked in the background of the Green Party for many years and decided to run as a candidate to bring research and politics together. While science cannot produce exact answers to political issues, but Harjanne believes solutions should be based on the best available information. The Green Party considers themselves nuclear neutral and open to nuclear energy and other low carbon energy generation. Harjanne learned about power production and nuclear energy growing up in school, and became more pro-nuclear after he learned why people in the political atmosphere were opposed.
Q: Do you see open minded people becoming pro-nuclear after learning the facts?
A: Atte Harjanne generally sees people become more open minded after learning the facts of nuclear power. In the political atmosphere, Harjanne saw that initially concerns were incorrectly linked to nuclear weapons, but eventually found out concerns were more focused on cost. Chernobyl happened when Harjanne was a child, but he does not associate the event with any type of nuclear scare, giving credit to his parents.
Q: What type of climate research are you doing?
A: Atte Harjanne is a socioeconomic impact researcher focused on researching climate change adaptation costs and benefits and how climate risks are managed in different organizations. Harjanne looks at how different organizations perceive climate risk and how they plan to manage climate change. Mitigation policy research is usually completed by Finnish Environmental Center, and people like Harjanne just provide climate information. One current project of Harjanne’s is analyzing energy policy as it relates to renewable energy and how it enables lower prioritization of climate politics. He is also looking into the European Development of Climate Services and how there is information available, but not incentives for promoting climate change, such as a putting a price on carbon or establishing a carbon tax. The Finnish government is working towards an act forbidding the use of coal by 2029, but Harjanne is afraid that mandating a phase out may only provide an opportunity for other high carbon emission power. Vehicle emissions are also under consideration for regulation.
Q: What is it like to participate in a debate with political and industry leaders around energy?
A: Atte Harjanne witnesses a difference in debate in private and public conversations. For example, in the end-of-coal act, private debates expose the risks and challenges of eliminating the industry, but in public, it is very highly supported. Harjanne sees many other countries preach renewables as image driven climate politics. Finland is looking at nuclear energy and other low carbon emission technology, like small modular reactors (SMR’s). He hopes to see other countries follow suit and pursue low carbon energy options. Helsinki has acknowledged that district heating is currently coming from coal, but also recognizes that the easy alternatives are not necessarily the best.