In the wake of the global climate strike, Celia Roberts suggests academics should fly less often. Plus letters from John Gamlin, Daniel Scharf, Alicia Baker and Sally Starborg
In your 10 charts explaining the climate crisis (21 September), aviation is targeted as a “difficult problem” to solve. Given that the global climate strike was organised by, among others, the student climate network, students need to ask their academic staff how much they are cutting down on flying to conferences. The Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research states that academics are among the highest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions. And while universities are increasingly committed to a green agenda for their own organisations in terms of carbon reduction, recycling and sustainable living, there is little evidence that academics are cutting down on their frequent flying habit.
Some may argue that face-to-face meetings at conferences around the world are necessary for the exchange of ideas and production of knowledge. However, research at the University of British Columbia suggests that there is no clear relationship between those who fly more and the quality of research. The University of Lund in Sweden is exceptional in requiring staff to set out concrete personal reduction targets. Isn’t it time that all UK universities followed suit and that students held their lecturers to account by asking them what steps they are taking to fly less?
Professor emerita, King’s College London