Contributed Talk - Splinter Sustainability

Friday, 17 September 2021, 09:55   (virtual Sustain)

Global greenhouse gas emissions of astronomy conferencing: a 2019 baseline

Knud Jahnke, Andrea Gokus, & Astronomers for Planet Earth
Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie

Astronomy's communication relies heavily on dissemination of results through conferences, workshops, and hands-on learning at dedicated summer or winters schools. The number of international meetings is large, both for general topics as well as specialist's gatherings. This lively interaction around the globe permits us to meet interesting people at interesting location, and learn about progress in our field. At the same time travel to conferences has side effects: Flights are responsible for vast amounts of climate-relevant emission of CO2 and through other effects. In parallel, the financial, physical, and time hurdles to attend meetings disfavours specific parts of our community. How large these effects are and whether in a post-pandemic world we just revert to previous behaviour in face of a developing climate crisis is an open questions. For an analysis we are currently lacking the relevant data. Within the community of Astronomers for Planet Earth we aim at changing this. As a foundation for recommendations of how astronomy and astrophysics might want to change in the future, we started with assessing all of astronomy's travel emissions, for the pre-pandemic year 2019 as a baseline. In this presentation we will give initial results in this ongoing project, on travel emissions for 'open-access' conferences, workshops, and schools, i.e. meetings beyond a project-specific or collaboration context. We will describe our approach for collecting data, and highlight first results on total climate-relevant emissions, regional distribution, and what can already be learned from the current data. We will give an outlook on which data we plan to gather in the future, and how we plan to turn this into a basis for recommendations to the astro community for behavioural and organisational changes in the future, as a path to curb our contributions to climate change, and towards better equity.