Björn-Ola Linnér: I am a frustrated optimist

Björn-Ola Linnér intended to be a social studies teacher. Instead, he became a climate researcher. He had never imagined an academic career. Yet, he became a professor at the Department of Thematic studies - Environmental Change in Linköping and, as a researcher, plays an active role in the environmental debate.


He talks vividly about his journey from the free church environment in his childhood Gothenburg to a professorship at Linköping University.

“I didn’t know anyone who went to university until I was 18 or 19. I thought you had to be super smart.” 

In the video, he talks about why he calls himself a frustrated optimist, the link between research and his free church background, how he handles the sometimes hateful climate debate and what he says to all those who despair about the future.

From Lund to Linköping

But through his sister’s boyfriend, thoughts of studying were awakened in him, which led to the upper secondary school subject teacher education programme in Lund. At the same time, he was interested in the environmental debate and was attracted by the research, but realised that the environmental issue spanned both the social and the natural sciences.

Therefore, he decided that he needed an interdisciplinary PhD education. In 1993, he found his way to Linköping University, and there he has remained.

“The most important thing in my life right now? That it wouldn’t be so much fun that you work too much,” smiles Björn-Ola Linnér.

Translation: Simon Phillips

Photo credit Anna Nilsen

Facts: Björn-Ola Linnér

Born 1963 in Gothenburg. At the Department of Thematic Studies - Environmental Change, Björn-Ola Linnér conducts research on international climate policy and sustainable development.
He is also Programme Director of the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research, Mistra, and is affiliated with the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and the University of Oxford.
As a researcher, he has also been involved in the international climate negotiations.

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