From the Viewsroom

Flying less for a cooler Earth

TV Jayan | Updated on October 22, 2019

Scientists looking to lead by example in reducing carbon footprint

Scientists often fly from one corner of the world to another for attending scientific meetings. While many of such air travels are unavoidable, a growing section in the international scientific community feels that it’s time that scientists find creative alternatives to such fly-in meetings wherever possible. For the sake of the planet, which is suffering from human-caused global heating.

In an editorial written in the prestigious Science journal about two weeks ago, Peter Kalmus, a physicist specialising in climate modelling at the University of California, Los Angeles, and founder of, made a fervent plea to his peers to fly less. “If scientists fly less, it could communicate climate urgency more effectively,” Kalmus said in the article. In 2018, domestic and international flights emitted around 895 million tonnes of carbon dioxides (CO2) — about 2.4 per cent of global energy-related carbon emissions. This year, aircraft are expected to travel as much as 8.1 trillion kilometres. A passenger on a premium return ticket between Delhi and New York emits 1.864 tonnes of CO2, which is equivalent to what an average Indian emits in the whole year. It is said that with global air travel growing by 5 per cent a year, the global carbon emissions relating to aviation could grow by between 2.4 times and 3.6 times by 2050, even if potential improvement in aircraft fuel efficiency of 1-2 per cent per year is expected.

Kalmus is of the opinion that in a perfect world, scientists can alert the public about the urgent action needed to save the planet from global heating with summary reports on the science, similar to those the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have been producing since 1999. But the need of the hour is to create awareness about urgent climate action. Scientists, who fly a lot for attending scientific conferences, can clearly send the right signal if they themselves cut down their carbon footprint by finding alternative ways of participating at least in some of the meetings. The advances in information and communication technologies can certainly make this possible.

The writer is a Senior Deputy Editor with BusinessLine

Published on October 22, 2019

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