I left academia in 2005 to become a consultant working on climate change and development issues. This involves a lot of work in developing countries, and this usually means a lot of flying. It’s easy to say that the flying is justified because you’re helping developing countries that are mostly low emitters to adapt to the impacts of climate change caused mostly by rich nations. But the hypocrisy and absurdity of flying to address climate change is difficult to ignore.
Over the years, I’ve become increasingly sceptical about the good that I’m doing. A lot of projects are not sustained once funding dries up; lots of work is little more than box ticking; increasingly climate change ‘action’ is being co-opted to support unsustainable business as usual; and the organisations I work for seem unable to address the problem of flying for meetings that are often of limited value or could be held remotely.
So, enough. I may still fly if I think the work will do some good and can’t be done otherwise, but every time I’m asked to fly I will make a point of questioning it. And I will say no as often as I can.
In my day-job I undertake research related to adaptation, its implementation and evaluation. As part of my academic work as a visiting fellow at UEA, I conduct research into past adaptation as evident in archaeological and palaeo-environmental records, and worked extensively in the Sahara. My PhD was in atmospheric feedbacks affecting drought in the Sahel, and some of my postdoc work involved remote sensing and geomorphology.