(Posted by Olive on behalf of Heike)
The week before last, I was one of an army of geoscientists travelling to Vienna from Europe and the world for the General Assembly of the European Geophysical Union (EGU). And of course, we are all aware of climate change. There was a talk on “The carbon footprint of academic travelling – assessing the sustainability of different ways of travelling to the EGU Assembly”. Too late, since most of us had already come by plane.
There also was a debate with the title “The carbon footprint of EGU is bigger than necessary”. I didn’t go. I suspect the potentially interesting question in this debate — “What is necessary?” — was not addressed.
Is the EGU assembly itself necessary? Of course it is nice to meet colleagues in person. Yes, when people chat over a glass of wine at the poster session, chances are that new science emerges that would not have come into the world without that poster session (or without that wine). And for me personally, talking to people informally about the launch of my new Journal, Nature Geoscience, is very helpful.
In the end, do 4,200 oral presentations and 6,700 posters justify 8,000 participants’ travel emissions? The bottomline of EGU sounds reasonable. But necessary? No. Necessary it is not.
Chief Editor, Nature Geoscience