Going Green, Top British Climate Lab Sends Only Three Scientists to U.S. Meeting

Eli is a contributing correspondent for Science magazine.

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA—The U.K. Met Office includes hundreds of the world's most prominent experts in weather, climate, and atmospheric science. But only three of them came across the Atlantic and the continental United States to this week's American Geophysical Union meeting here after officials decided to make a personal statement about the need to cut global greenhouse gas emissions.

"They're discouraging us from flying," said Met Office research scientist Benjamin Davenish, who says he supports scientists' efforts to cut their carbon footprint. "I'm not sure about [the policy.] It's a tricky situation, because you can't replace face-to-face contact."

Met Office spokesman Barry Grommet says the policy stems from the fact that "we have yearly targets for environmental impact." Grommet says "it's not an edict that's been delivered to us from on high. We've taken it on ourselves."

The meeting's 18,000 participants do create a significant carbon footprint, acknowledges AGU Executive Director Christine McEntee. That's why the society is hoping that future meetings will permit off-site participation through video and other technologies. Cutting the environmental impact of travel to the meeting, she said, is "something we've got on our radar."

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