I was wondering what people thought of the suggestion that climate scientists could make a difference by not flying. It’s from a paper by Corinne le Quere which starts with
As experts in a field that is of profound importance to the wellbeing of future societies and ecosystems, it matters what climate scientists say and do.
To be honest, I’m in two minds about this whole idea. That we should consider reducing flying and using alternative ways of travelling, or alternative ways of holding meetings, seems quite sensible. Of course, there will be some occasions where it isn’t possible to find an alternative way of travelling, or where a face-to-face meeting would be much more effective than some kind of conference call. However, I’m not sure about the whole idea that climate scientists should be setting some kind of example.
To be clear, I’m all for climate scientists speaking out more, and if some decide that they should fly less, or should change their behaviour because of what their research is suggesting, that’s absolutely fine with me. I’m just not convinced that it’s really their place to set an example, or that they should feel obliged to do so. There’s also the problem that some argue that scientists who advocate are losing their objectivity and hence can no longer be trusted. So, any kind of collective action could be used against them. Admittedly, this may be something that is mainly found in the online climate debate, so may have no actual wider infuence.
On the other hand, this is – IMO – a serious issue, and if what climate scientists choose to do publicly could have some positive impact, then it may well be worth considering. I can certainly see that people might respond positively if they became aware of such endeavours. However, I do still worry that we’re expecting an awful lot from those who are really just the messengers, not the decision makers. What might be better is if we aimed to make these kind of changes more generally, rather than just in climate science.
I really don’t, however, have particularly strong views about this, so would be interested in what others think. I’m quite pleased to see some climate scientists speak out, I’m just not convinced that we should be expecting climate scientists specifically to publicly change their behaviour. This is a global, societal issue and we should all be considering how we can help to both highlight the issues and reduce our emissions. We shouldn’t be leaving it only to climate scientists, simply because their research is most closely related to the topic. It’s not that hard for the rest of us to understand the significance.