Academic Research without Flying

Researchers travel a lot: conference, collaboration meeting, workshops, lectures – I observe that many mathematicians fly several times a year to other continents, and several times a month within Europe. Not counting holidays or people that–due to typical way an academic carreer is organized–live in a long-distance relationship, maybe commuting every weekend by airplane.

I wrote a long page about initiatives to reduce the ecological footprint of academic research, where I also make some practical recommendations. Let me just cite a short piece from there:

Let's say you fly every year two times from Europe to the US and once per month within Europe. That amounts to ca. 12 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent! Which means:
- 200% of the emissions of an average European;
- 10 times the emissions every human being is permitted to keep global warming below 2 Kelvin;
- requires 980 average trees to re-absorb;
- melts 20-30m² of the arctic ice shield.

Take night trains and day trains. I managed not to take a single inner-European flight in the last 3 years! Do you have to go abroad, Singapure, the US or so? Group your meeting into one big block instead of flying 2 times. Group your holiday with your work instead of flying 2 times. The easiest way to reduce emissions by 50%! Consider carbon compensation as a last resort for absolutely un-avoidable flights.

If that is too much for you (you can’t sleep on night trains, you don’t have time for day trains): At least, set a simple goal: 2 plane trips less this year – 2 night train or long-distance day train trips more! Everyone has enough time for that.

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