“If we are to make a difference in the politically charged terrain of climate change, diligent and meticulous research is not enough. Credibility is paramount and resides in the integrity of the relationship between the researcher and their research.”

Kevin Anderson, climate scientist

Acadmics and researchers, especially those based in wealthy institutions, often figure among the high emitters. Conservationists are not an exception. A 2017 study comparing the environmental footprint of conservationists, medics and economiststhree groups with above-average footprintsfound that while conservationists behave in a marginally ‘greener’ manner, the differences are modest. The average conservationist in the sample took six flights per year, three for work and three for personal reasons. Averages, though, can hide great disparities. A survey of 1509 individuals across eight departments at the University of British Columbia found that almost one third of academics did not fly, 8% produced half of all flight emissions and 25% produced 80% of all flight emissions. One reason for these high-carbon lifestyles is a research culture that confers status on international travel and downplays the potential of information and communication technologies for staying updated with research, fostering international collaborations, and making conferences more inclusive.

The articles below offer ideas on how to transition towards a low-carbon research culture.

Towards a culture of low-carbon research for the 21st Century

Report by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research

“we review the rationale for and alternatives to the current high-carbon research culture. We find no clear obstacles to justify an exemption for the research community from the emission reduction targets applied elsewhere. While stimulating ideas and creating personal links of trust are important benefits of face-to-face meetings, these benefits may be outweighed by the opportunities to reach much wider communities by developing and using new social media and online platforms. We argue that the research community needs a roadmap to reduce its emissions following government targets, which ironically are based on findings of the research community.”

An analysis of ways to decarbonize conference travel after COVID-19

Biennials, regional hubs and virtual attendance can slash emissions, new calculations show.

Article in Nature

“Only through a concerted and coordinated effort will the transition towards a decarbonized model of academic conferencing gain traction. As COVID-19 has taught us, changes to deeply embedded and seemingly intractable practices can happen in a global emergency with remarkable speed.”

AGU Should Support Its Members Who Fly Less

Article in Science News by AGU

“many of us feel called to reduce our carbon footprint—sometimes dramatically—in an effort to align our actions with the urgency of climate change. For most Earth scientists, as for most other academics, air travel dominates our personal carbon footprint by a significant margin. For some of us, a concerted effort to fly less is a critical part of our shift to a lower-carbon lifestyle.”

Initiatives to reduce academic flying

No Fly Climate Sci – Earth scientists, academics, and members of the public who either don’t fly or who fly less. See also the section on biographies

Flying less: Reducing academia’s carbon footprint

Reflections about flying less in academia

Anthropology: In an era of climate change, our ethics code is clear: We need to end the AAA annual meeting

Archaeology: Decarbonising archaeology

Ethnomusicology: Academic flying, climate change, and ethnomusicology: Personal reflections on a professional problem