Conferences and Carbon Footprints


Travel is an important part of research. But how much is necessary?  

Well, I don't know.  But I am concerned about global warming -- and my contribution to it -- so I went to a carbon footprint calculator to see how much carbon dioxide I put into the atmosphere every year.  Turns out it's quite a bit: 7.5 metric tons without taking business travel into account. With business travel the number doubles. So I'm going to try to reduce my carbon footprint by one third, both at home and at work.*  

According to the calculator, this means I can travel at most 35,000 miles per year.  This is enough to attend two distant conferences  (e.g. one in Europe and one in Asia) and several North American conferences every year.  And that's enough for me.  

For young people in need of a job, I suggest you travel as much as humanly possible! Advertising your work and making contacts with senior people is extremely important.  But for those of us with secure employment, I think global considerations should trump our natural desire to be at every possible conference.  What do you think?

If you're interested, a distance calculator can be found here. Also, for your convenience, 7,000 miles of air travel equals one metric ton of carbon dioxide emissions.


*
Yes, one third is an arbitrary number and I can't give you a good reason for picking it. In my mind the reason is because the average American contributes 20 metric tons per year and I'm aiming for half the average.  Which is still an arbitrary rationale. But doing something is better than doing nothing.  I hope.