Towards a culture of low carbon research for the 21st century

The research community has highlighted for several decades the implications of greenhouse gas emissions for climate change. In response, world governments have agreed to limit global temperature change to 2°C, which requires drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. In advanced economies, a commitment to a 2°C limit generally represents a reduction of emissions of between 80-95% from the 1990 baseline. Despite this, emissions from international aviation increased by 53 % between 1990 and 2011 in those countries. Academic researchers are among the highest emitters, primarily as a result of emissions from flying to conferences, project meetings, and fieldwork. Here 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 road map to reduce its emissions following government targets, which ironically are based on findings of the research community. A road map to a low-carbon research space would need simple monitoring, an example of which is presented here and documents the Tyndall Travel Tracker, incentives from international and national research platforms and funders, and a fundamental change in the research culture to align the walk with the talk. Such a change in practice would strengthen the trust of the public in research.

Date Of Record Release
Description

The research community has highlighted for several decades the implications of greenhouse gas emissions for climate change. In response, world governments have agreed to limit global temperature change to 2°C, which requires drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. In advanced economies, a commitment to a 2°C limit generally represents a reduction of emissions of between 80-95% from the 1990 baseline. Despite this, emissions from international aviation increased by 53 % between 1990 and 2011 in those countries. Academic researchers are among the highest emitters, primarily as a result of emissions from flying to conferences, project meetings, and fieldwork. Here 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 road map to reduce its emissions following government targets, which ironically are based on findings of the research community. A road map to a low-carbon research space would need simple monitoring, an example of which is presented here and documents the Tyndall Travel Tracker, incentives from international and national research platforms and funders, and a fundamental change in the research culture to align the walk with the talk. Such a change in practice would strengthen the trust of the public in research.

Classification
Resource Type
Format
Subject
Keyword Carbon, Climate Change, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Global Temperature Change
Date Of Record Creation 2019-01-26 19:50:21
Education Level
Date Last Modified 6/30/2015 16:13
Language English
Date Record Checked: 6/30/2015 15:33 (W3C-DTF)

Mission

EERL's mission is to be the best possible online collection of environmental and energy sustainability resources for community college educators and for their students. The resources are also available for practitioners and the public.

EERL & ATEEC

EERL is a product of a community college-based National Science Foundation Center, the Advanced Technology Environmental and Energy Center (ATEEC), and its partners.

Contact ATEEC 563.441.4087 or by email ateec@eicc.edu