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Meeting at the cost of climate

(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.

Heike Langenberg

Chief Editor, Nature Geoscience


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    M. Simon said:

    If we are heading into a cooling trend and CO2 is a useful magnitude climate driver we will need to have many more confrences like this a year.

    Preventing the next ice age is worth the effort.

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    piglet said:


    Here’s a suggestion. Maybe “bigger than necessary” refers to the idea that EGU organizers and participants could do more to lower their carbon footprint? Does that sound unreasonable? Scientists warning the world of the negative consequences of carbon emissions are well advised to take their own activities into account. Just a thought 😉

    “Too late, since most of us had already come by plane.” Really? That’s sad. Vienna lies right in the center of Europe and I’m sure many participants could have reached the conference venue comfortably by train. Probably more comfortably than by plane. Hopefully next time then.

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    piglet said:

    PS: “I didn’t go. I suspect the potentially interesting question in this debate — “What is necessary?” — was not addressed.”

    I wish you had simply talked to the organizers instead of publishing unsubstantiated “suspicions” on a purportedly scientific web site. Sorry Heike if I can’t hold back my frustration with this blog site. As one of the first commenters has put it, this site has turned out exactly as what it was supposed to counter: hot air. I’m, afraid you here are making a joke of climate science. Which is sad.

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