This paper presents data on carbon emissions generated by travel undertaken for a major sustainability science research effort. Previous research has estimated CO2 emissions generated by individual scientists, by entire academic institutions, or by international climate conferences. Here, we sought to investigate the size, distribution and factors affecting the carbon emissions of travel for sustainability research in particular. Reported airline and automobile travel of participants in Maine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative were used to calculate the carbon dioxide emissions attributable to research-related travel over a three-year period. Carbon emissions varied substantially by researcher and by purpose of travel. Travel for the purpose of dissemination created the largest carbon footprint. This result suggests that alternative networking and dissemination models are needed to replace the high carbon costs of annual society meetings. This research adds to literature that questions whether the cultural demands of contemporary academic careers are compatible with climate stabilization. We argue that precise record keeping and routine analysis of travel data are necessary to track and reduce the climate impacts of sustainability research. We summarize the barriers to behavioral change at individual and organizational levels and conclude with suggestions for reducing climate impacts of travel undertaken for sustainability research.
Waring, Timothy M.; Teisl, Mario f.; Manandhar, Eva; and Anderson, Mark, "On the Travel Emissions of Sustainability Science Research" (2014). Publications. 68.
Waring, T.M., Teisl, M., Manandhar, E., & Anderson, M. 2014. On the Travel Emissions of Sustainability Science Research. Sustainability. 6(5), 2718-2735
© 2014 by the authors
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