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  • Did We Forget about Climate Change during the COVID-19 Pandemic?The Year in Denmark
  • Marianne Høyen (bio)

When asked to write this essay, my initial thought was to look for a text that spoke to me as a researcher, but equally important was finding a text that was significant for the years in question. The book market in general is flooded with biographies of many kinds—but what would be most relevant to the events of recent years? COVID-19, an obvious choice, has been a dominant subject of many books, so I wanted to avoid taking that well-trodden route. Therefore, I chose a text that addressed issues of climate change and nature in a broader sense—a subject close to my heart, professionally and personally. Several books about this subject have been published in the last few years, but unfortunately, very few are of Danish origin. This is probably due to the small language area that Denmark covers geographically, and today books in Danish are primarily aimed at students or intended for leisure reading. Most other books are translated or written in more international languages.

In 2022 only three books about subjects related to the climate and the natural environment were published in Denmark. Two of them deal with a female scholar in the natural sciences, Inge Lehmann (1888–1993), a pioneer in geophysics, who argued in 1936 that the Earth has a solid inner core. The two books (Den inderste kerne by Lotte Kaa Andersen and Skyggezone by Hanne Strager) were published after Lehmann was "rediscovered" possibly because of renewed public attention to female scientists in the aftermath of the #MeToo movement and campaigns aimed at attracting more female students to STEM fields. The third book, on which I focus in the remainder of this essay, was written by a former television weather presenter: Jesper Theilgaard's Da vejret blev en nyhed: 20 år med klimaforandringer. In it, Theilgaard depicts his working life and reflects on the personal and professional matters involved in going from a meteorologist to a communicator on climate change issues. Beginning in a time when the weather forecast was mostly for [End Page 21] farmers and pilots, Theilgaard turns to the physical signs of climate change in the 1990s and the emerging political awareness that climate problems relate to matters of energy consumption and the protection of industrial interests, and lately, younger generations' increasing awareness and demands for change. Throughout the book, Theilgaard, who is not a scholar himself but a skilled communicator, describes his frustration with what he sees as ignorance of long-established facts in the natural sciences.

Theilgaard was a state- or quasi-state employed civil servant working as a meteorologist from his youth to his retirement. He describes his professional career and its changing conditions through several lines of interwoven stories. The main history is told from the perspective of working with the weather, initially as a traditional meteorologist dealing with winds and air pressure, the Earth's rotation, ocean currents—the shifting elements that are vital for the successful calculation of safe take-off and landing and plotting efficient routes for aircraft. These were important observations, particularly when briefing pilots flying out of Denmark's main airports, and over time they became computerized and international. Over the years, the need for knowledge about the weather changed too, with the introduction of weather reports for daily TV news programs, and more recently an increasing need to understand the underlying factors affecting the weather, and globally how climate change influences not only people working close to nature but also ordinary people who are experiencing intense, often daily weather events.

Theilgaard also writes about how the political focus on climate has changed from the 1990s to today. In his early days as an employee of a public broadcasting station, he was not allowed to voice his own opinions or take part in anything the government might disapprove of. He describes how the rejection of climate change led to the liberal government dismantling their team of environmental experts, seriously threatening the knowledge built up over the years. Later on, there was a gradual shift towards an understanding that something was...