James Clark arrived at the foot of the French Alps in the midst of a historic heat wave. It was a fitting welcome, given his work. The Duke University professor is one of 43 scientists who are relocating their climate research to France as part of the “Make Our Planet Great Again” initiative, or MOPGA.
Launched by France in response to America’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, MOPGA aims to draw top scientists from around the world to conduct climate-related research in French and German labs. But despite its name, MOPGA is about much more than politics. For participants like Professor Clark, it’s a chance to think long-term about Earth’s future with a level of support they have not felt in the United States. “You have very smart people all over the country who have almost no research budgets,” he says. “This is a trend that’s been going on for decades.”
More than half of the incoming scientists, or MOPGA laureates, were previously based in the U.S. So far, the program is relatively small. But it’s meant to become something big. “We are quite sure the program will have a snowball effect,” says MOPGA scientific coordinator Stéphane Blanc. “And what’s put in place will lead to different programs.”