After writing this page I discovered a similar petition. Please sign it!
am looking for an internet address for the following declaration. The
site should enable the following. The text should be presented as a
declaration, not a petition. It should be possible to adjust the
response fields: signatories will be asked for name, affiliation, field
of research, and which pledges they are taking. It must also be
possible to change the text of the petition and inform signatories of
Declaration: Reduce flying to academic conferences
Greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced drastically in the next few
years (not decades) if the worst consequences of global warming are to
be avoided later in this century. The 2015 agreement in Paris was a
partial success: it did not go nearly far enough, and it will surely be
broken by many countries because it did not include sanctions for
non-compliance. The general political tendency, both before and after
this landmark meeting, is still much talk and little action. It is now
generally accepted that neither democratic politics nor international
capitalism is in a good position to solve the problem of global
warming, which logically makes it everyone’s problem.
Global warming is in particular the problem of academics, because
academics understand from personal experience how the evaluation of
research works. Academics not only know that the predictions of
the climate scientists are basically correct - they can also explain
why they must be correct with a high probability.
Given this unprecedented international emergency, we, the undersigned academic researchers and scholars, are voluntarily
restricting our contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and global
warming by avoiding air travel. Communication plays a central role in
modern research, so we can hardly give up conferences - but we can
reduce our dependency on fossil fuels.
We are concerned about the predictions of mainstream climate science
(1) and the continuing failure of democratic politics to respond
adequately (2). The contribution of aviation to global warming is
considerable (3) and involves much more than CO2 (4). Transport (mainly
planes and cars) produced 14% of global GHG emissions in 2010, and the
proportion is increasing (5). The counterarguments of the aviation
industry (6) are appealing but misleading; they are overridden by the
urgent need to reduce, and eventually stop, all greenhouse emissions in
all sectors (7).
(1) International Panel on Climate Change (2015): “Fifth Assessment Report”. www.ipcc.ch
Editors (2014): "Too little, too late", Editorial, Nature Climate
J. Fuglestvedt et al. (2008): "Climate forcing from the transport
sectors", PNAS, 105(2), 454–458; Eurocontrol (2008): "Five Major
Challenges of Long-term Air Traffic Growth",
(4) J. E. Penner et al. (1999): "Aviation and the Global Atmosphere". IPCC Special Report.
(5) IPCC, 2015
(6) Air Transport Action Group (2014). "Facts and Figures". atag.org/facts-and-figures.html
IPCC, 2014; P. Carter (2009-2013): "Zero Carbon or Climate
We call on people in all places and occupations to develop strategies
to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in both public and private sectors.
We call on politicians to support relevant initiatives such as for
example globally regulated and harmonized carbon taxes (8) or subsidies
for rail services to ensure they are always cheaper than airlines
competing for the same passengers.
(8) R. Nader and T. Heaps (2008): "We need a global carbon tax", Wall Street Journal, 3 Dec.
Colleagues in all academic disciplines are asked to sign one or more of the following pledges.
Your specific combination of pledges will depend on your
geographic location and career stage. Colleagues who live closer to
global centres of research (e.g. in the middle of Europe) are more
likely to sign all pledges (others should still be able to sign several
of them). Younger researchers may be reluctant to sign if international
collaboration is important for their work; but remember that grant
agencies and professorial selection committees tend to focus on papers
in good journals and books with good publishers, ignoring conference
presentations and even proceedings contributions.
Some airlines are currently considering biofuels. These can only be
acceptable if their production does not compete with food production in
countries affected by hunger. That counts out sugarcane fields in
Brazil (used cooking oil may be a promising alternative). But
recycling may not be able to provide the enormous quantities of fuel
that are necessary: A return flight from San Francisco to Berlin via
Frankfurt requires about 600 liters or about half a ton of fuel per
person. In the unlikely event that this problem is solved, the
following pledges may be broken for flights powered by acceptable
Pledge 1. I will travel by
train or bus to conferences whenever it is reasonably possible. I will
only fly if other travel is highly impractical (e.g <12 hours or
much more expensive than flying).
Pledge 2. I will halve my
conference footprint based on my average flying budget for the past few
years as measured in km, dollars or takeoffs.
Pledge 3. If I fly to a
conference, I will offset the total environmental impact (not only the
CO2) by contributing to a carbon offset scheme that is recognized by a
reputable global organisation such as Verified Carbon Standard.
Pledge 4. If I fly to a
conference, I will stay nearby for at least one day (better: one week) per 1000 km of one-way distance (e.g. by planning other activities that do not involve
additional flights - another conference, research, holiday). If
for example I fly 5600 km from New York to London, I will stay in
Europe (without flying) for at least 6 days and preferably for 6 weeks.
Pledge 5. I will only fly to a
conference if the organisers pay for the flight. Rationale:
An invitation usually means many people benefit from the trip
and the inviters are
co-responsible for the environmental impact. This is an objective
criterion that will lead to a significant long-term reduction in
emissions. An additional possible criterion: the anticipated audience for a keynote must exceed a given number (e.g. 50) before flying.
Pledge 6. I will fly no more
than once per year to a conference, or to a series of nearby
conferences, taking off no more than four times altogether.
Pledge 7. As a conference
organiser or co-organiser, I will actively promote climate-friendly
strategies such as teleconferencing, live streaming, video
documentation, and fee reductions for participants who avoid flying,
contribute to a recognized carbon offset scheme, or take other
appropriate steps to limit their environmental impact.
Pledge 8. As a member of an
international research team (e.g. an EU project), I will recommend
teleconferencing or meetings at central locations that most members can
reach by train or bus.
Pledge 9. As an advisor to a
research funding agency, I will recommend that the agency funds not
only travel costs but also the total environmental impact of travel
through a reputable offset scheme, and/or discourages excessive travel.
Pledge 10. I will encourage my university to reduce staff/faculty flying, finance carbon offset, and/or divest from fossil fuels.
A personal pledge is a combination of these and other pledges. Since 2014, the author of this text is not flying
to a conference unless the following three criteria are fulfillled:
- Pledge 1: Other transport would have been impractical (>12 hours) or expensive compared to flying.
- Pledge 4: I stay near the destination for at least one day (better: one week) per 1000 km of one-way distance.
- Pledge 5: I am invited (organisers are paying) and the audience is big (>50).
I am also implementing pledge 7 (for ICMPC-ESCOM 2018 in Graz) and plan to implement further pledges.
Before signing, please note:
1. To avoid possible misunderstandings, please inform your immediate
superior (e.g. head of department) before signing this declaration, and
notify any other academic organisations in which you play a leading
2. Before we reach 100 signatures, the wording of pledge statements may
be changed after consulting with signatories. Additional pledges may be
added with permission from those who signed "all". Feel free to suggest
The following text…
• is not part of the declaration and may be changed at any time.
• is for interest only. It is not necessary to read it before signing.
• is a draft. Please send feedback to richard at parncutt dot org.
Global warming, poverty, and early death in developing countries
Ethics versus research
Changing conference culture
Flying versus recycling
Planes versus trains
A personal note from the author
Global warming, poverty, and early death in developing countries
Global warming during the past century has mainly been caused by
greenhouse gases produced by human activity. The main culprit is carbon
dioxide. This has been obvious to most climate scientists since the
1980s. The human contribution to atmospheric CO2 and the greenhouse
effect was demonstrated by Charles David Keeling in Hawaii in 1961.
Later work merely confirmed his finding and added detail. The warming
effect of CO2 in the atmosphere, without which the entire earth's
surface would be frozen, was already understood in the 19th century. At this
level, there are no "two sides" to any "climate debate".
Climate deniers refuse to accept the conclusions of climate science
because the implications are so serious. But scientific conclusions are
generally independent of their implications; conclusions depend only on
evidence. Given the complexity of climate science, only recognized
climate scientists are in a position to interpret the evidence.
Thousands of leading climate scientists contributed to the 2013/2014
report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Academics in
other disciplines have little choice but to accept their main
A billion people are living in poverty in developing countries. Their
lives are threatened by hunger and preventable/curable disease, and violence. Some
ten million people die this way every year. Global warming and
associated desertification, deglaciation, ocean acidification, and
species extinction will probably push up this global death rate by
affecting food and fresh water supplies and geographically shifting
disease threats. It will cause sea levels to rise and increase the
frequency of catastrophic weather events. In conjunction with
population growth, it will probably cause mass migration and wars over
diminishing resources. These predictions are firmly based on mainstream
The present CO2 concentration is the highest for 800 000 years (see
Wikipedia "Carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere"). The problem would be
serious even if all greenhouse gas emissions stopped now: it would take
decades or centuries for the planet to adjust to the changed
atmospheric composition. The more emissions we produce in the coming
years, the worse will be the future consequences.
The UN has agreed to limit global warming to 2°C, and the
international community of climate scientists (IPCC) has calculated the
corresponding amount of burned carbon (about one trillion tons carbon
altogether since the 18th century). Even if the goal of limiting
warming to 2°C goal is achieved, warming will cause hundreds of
millions of future deaths over a period of several decades as the
current death toll of about ten million per year from hunger,
preventable and curable diseases in developing countries gradually
rises. Mass migration due to famine and rising sea levels, and wars
over diminishing resources, could bring the death toll to a billion
over a period of about one century. That’s 10% of the projected
maximum global population of 10 billion.
The chances of achieving the 2°C goal are slim, in
spite of promising developments. The emission reduction targets that
are currently in force in different countries will probably not be
achieved - if the consistent failures of the past two decades are any
guide. Even if those targets were achieved, they would be insufficient
to limit warming to 2°C. The 2°C promise will probably turn out
to be as empty as the promise to raise official development assistance
to 0.7% GNP, which if implemented consistently for the past two decades
(as originally planned) would have saved hundreds of millions of lives
in developing countries by alleviating poverty.
If we assume that (i) the total carbon budget since the start of
industrialization for a mean global temperature rise of 2°C is one
trillion tons, and (ii) a temperature rise of this magnitude will
indirectly cause roughly one billion deaths over the next century,
every thousand tons of carbon that are burned today causes one future
There can be only one rational response to this situation, and that is
to reduce the burning of fossil fuels as quickly as possible in all
areas. Whether by design or by disaster, our carbon-based global
economy will radically change. Clearly, the earlier "design" option is
preferable to the later "disaster" option.
"Design" means urgent action at multiple levels. "Disaster" means an
unprecedented catastrophe that our children and grandchildren will have
to deal with. Global warming is a negative
legacy. Our children and grandchildren will be shocked that we
knew what we were doing - and kept doing it. If we love them, we have
no choice but to act. This is not an emotional appeal; it is a logical
conclusion based on the best available evidence.
Many people don't believe that the problem could be that serious. But
that, too, is easily explained. Stories about the end of the world are
common, and with the exception of global warming they are mostly
nonsense. People have got used to hearing such stories and laughing
them off. Another reason is that nobody wants to do without their
standard of living, which is based in multiple ways on fossil fuels. It
is human nature to be selfish and place your own interests above those
of others, even if the comparison is extreme and immoral as a
comparison between daily comforts in rich countries and daily death in
Previous serious environmental threats to humanity were solved by
international agreement. In the 1970s atmospheric ozone was a serious
threat to humanity, but it was later brought under control by
international agreements to limit CFC production. In the 1980s, forest
dieback threatened humanity, but the problem was solved by
international agreements to limit sulfur pollution. By comparison,
currently agreements to limit CO2 production are clearly inadequate.
The margin between what has been achieved and what is necessary to
solve the problem is enormous. Many believe in the ability of
capitalism and technology to solve the problem at the last minute, but
the simple carbon-budget mathematics tells a different story. It is
clear from the predictions of climate science that "wait and see" is a
recipe for disaster. It is a logical fallacy to assume that just
because humanity solved previous comparable problems it will now solve
Like all other human sources of greenhouse gases, flying using current
technology is a luxury that humanity can no longer afford. If flying is
indeed a mortal threat for future generations, these arguments suggest
that it should be reserved for matters of life and death.
Ethics versus research
During the last couple of decades, universities everywhere have established ethics committees
to check whether planned research projects are ethically acceptable
before they begin. The underlying assumption is that ethics is more
important than research. Said another way, no matter how interesting a
research project might be from a theoretical point of view - achieving
new understanding or pushing back the boundaries of knowledge - it is
more important to ensure that basic ethical principles are respected.
This in particular means respecting human rights, but also animal rights. When a
project involves both ethical benefits and ethical problems, these
need to be weighed up against each other. For example, the results of
animal experiments can save human lives, which can sometimes ethically
justify them - but such cases should be considered carefully from
different angles, considering relevant knowledge and approaches from
different academic disciplines.
Before and during the Second World War, Nazi medical researchers ignored ethical considerations because they
considered their experimental subjects to be "genetically inferior",
which lead to unimaginable cruelty. Even without such experiments, published research results can
be ethically problematic if they have serious implications for human
rights. In his research during the Nazi period, Konrad
Lorenz (Professor of Psychology in Königsberg from 1940 to
1941) sometimes supported the Nazi idea of "racial hygiene", according
to which people differ in the quality of their genes ("erbbiologische Eignung"). He suggested that "inferior"
people might be eliminated by a process of artificial selection, given
that modern medicine was prolonging people's lives and thereby
hindering natural selection.
In fact, this was not true
- not even from an "ethically neutral" scientific viewpoint - and
scientists at the time knew it. Darwin's concept of evolutionary
fitness was not an absolute measure of "quality", but depended on
environmental and social constraints:
As many more individuals of each
species are born than can possibly survive; and as, consequently, there
is a frequently recurring struggle for existence, it follows that any
being, if it vary however slightly in any manner profitable to itself,
under the complex and sometimes varying conditions of life, will have a
better chance of surviving, and thus be naturally selected. From the
strong principle of inheritance, any selected variety will tend to
propagate its new and modified form (Origin of the Species, 1859,
Even if evolutionary fitness had been an
absolute measure, as Nazi ideology implied, it would not have been
possible to evaluate it, since effects of "nature" (genetics) and
"nurture" (environment) can only partly be separated in empirical
studies (e.g. twin studies); besides, in the 1920s and 1930s, John B.
Watson had developed a well-known behaviorist approach that was
widely accepted in the USA, according to which behavior depended only on culture/learning and not at all on heredity (link). Beyond that, the claim that "ethnic Germans" ("Volksdeutsche", "Aryans")
were "genetically superior" to other "races" was obviously biased and there has never been objective scientific evidence for it; it is not even possible
to identify "Volksdeutsche" on the basis of genetic material.
These fundamental scientific problems did not stop
Lorenz, an internationally respected scientist, from
making such claims, and although his research may not directly
influenced Nazi policy, his arguments were similar to those
used to justify Auschwitz. The University of Salzburg somehow
managed to avoid or trivialise these problems when it awarded Lorenz an
honorary doctorate in 1983; the university realised its mistake in
2016 and withdrew
the award posthumously. It is interesting, and for me personally quite
shocking, that both decisions were regarded as controversial. I should
also mention that Lorenz's ethically unproblematic idea of the infant schema (Kleinkindschema) has played an important role in my research on the prenatal origins of music, but I also included a footnote about the problematic political context.
The Lorenz example is relevant to today's question of flying to
conferences. First, it is about the interpretation and implications of
scientific findings. Current climate research may be controversial in
some areas, but the general findings and the moral/political
implications are clear: greenhouse emissions must be urgently
reduced in all sectors. Second, the Lorenz example is about the
behavior of scientists in ethically difficult situations. If we know
that certain activities are ethically problematic and that arguments to
justify them contradict the scientific evidence, we have an obligation to intervene. If our own behavior is problematic, we have an obligation to change it.
Perhaps the controversy boils down to one question: What is more
important, research or ethics? On the one hand, one might argue that
ethics is always more important than research; therefore, given the
obvious ethical problem of flying (namely the likelihood that it
is contributing to hundreds of millions of future deaths), there is an
urgent need to reduce the amount of academic flying or to stop it
altogether. On the other hand, one might argue that the likely benefits
research outweigh the likely consequences of flying for the future.
That counterargument may be valid for research that will probably save
large numbers of lives. Flying could be considered ok for conferences
that strive to resolve international conflicts, reduce poverty, or cure
major fatal viruses such as AIDS or Ebola. Regular medical conferences
should be reducing their carbon footprint, just like any other
conference. Conferences that have no direct connection to projects to
save large numbers of lives (which includes most conferences) should
logically be striving for zero carbon. When politicians and others fly
to conferences in private jets, they should be under pressure to use
regular airline services whenever the security situation allows it.
Why should academics be the first to stop flying? Why not business people, for example?
1. The academics signing this declaration have more chance of
influencing other academics than we have of influencing people in other
2. Global agreements to reduce global warming are notoriously
difficult. Unilateral action involves first reducing one's own
emissions and then, on that basis, encouraging others to do the same.
The process has to begin somewhere.
3. We academics know that the basic findings of climate science are
correct, and that the implications are serious. We understand how
peer-review procedures work, because we participate in them actively.
They allow a global community of experts to establish a consensus. This
socially constructed "truth" is also the only truth to which we have
access. The basic truths of climate science are beyond reasonable
4. We academics enjoy the luxury of at least ten years of academic training - largely funded by society (taxes) and combining
general (interdisciplinary) and specific (specialist) elements. This
puts us in a privileged position when it comes to the evaluation
of arguments of any kind.
Even if academic life seems stressful, combining the
responsibility of teaching with publish-or-perish research and
time-consuming administrivia, we still have a moral obligation to
educate the public about the implications of research for society -
even if that research lies outside our specialist discipline (link). If we are going to plausibly recommend limits on flying, we will have to start by reducing our own flying.
One might object that each individual should be reducing her or his total net
emissions rather than focusing on one aspect. Here, I am focusing on flying
because it is a fast-growing contribution to global warming. One could
declare separately to cut down on driving or eating meat, for example,
which is beyond my current scope.
Changing conference culture
of us enjoy the adventure of traveling. That is one reason why academic
conferences are so popular. Become an academic, see the world, meet the
world! We enjoy meeting people at conferences at
least as much as going to talks. Personal contact is an important
ingredient of research collaboration. So resistance to this proposal is
Beyond that, the disadvantages of teleconferencing are clear. The presenter may miss the
feeling of "presence"; this problem can be solved by visual
and auditory feedback during the talk, but never completely. If the main aim is for the
audience to get the same useful information out of the talk, the main
things are good-quality sound and good-quality image, plus a natural
discussion session. If there is a special problem, there may also be
technical solutions that have not been tried out, so things can only
improve in the future, whereas climate change can only get worse.
Over a decade ago, academic conference participants stopped using
plastic transparencies and started using projection software,
demonstrating that big changes are possible in a short time (if only
for convenience). It's time now for the next revolution. Teleconferences
cannot replace personal interaction, but they can complement it in
interesting ways that we should be exploring more actively. Conference
programs can and should feature regular teleconferencing sessions in
which the audience interacts with a speaker at a distant location.
But merely adding some teleconferencing to a major international
conference will not reduce its carbon footprint very much. Most people
will still fly to the central location, because that is where the
action is. If we really want to reduce emissions, we need to go a step
global conferences can be divided into simultaneous regional
conferences or hubs that are electronically linked. All presentations
can be live-streamed to an internet cloud, making them available to
several other hubs, both simultaneously as streams or with a time delay
as videos. In that way, every presentation can be live at one location
and virtual at others, so there is no longer any difference in status
between live and virtual. All live and virtual presentations can be to
audiences that discuss the content, and discussion content can be
summarized in a comment feed, enabling a global discussion and
improving feedback to speakers. Time
differences can be overcome by splitting the daily program at each hub
into a morning session, during which there is real-time communication
with other hubs toward the east, and an evening session for
communication toward the west. Besides reducing emissions, this model
also allows many more colleagues to participate, because the total cost
of registration, travel and accommodation is reduced. The saving is
especially large for colleagues from non-rich or non-western countries
who attend a local hub. In this way, the cultural diversity of
participants is also increased, with positive long-term implications
for research outcomes.
Another interesting possibility is virtual conferences or webinars that
happen entirely in the internet. I prefer the option of getting
together with a group of people and spending a few days communicating
with other groups around the world.
Resistance to these suggestions may mainly be
natural conservatism. We naturally want certain behaviors in other
people to change, but are less happy about changing our own behavior.
In Austrian dialect we have a saying, " Des hamma scho immer so
gmacht," that is how we have always done it (and we are not going to
change, so there!). Perhaps it is as simple as that.
Avoiding flying versus recycling
Some conference organisers are taking great care to be
environmentally friendly. They carefully avoid disposable plastic or large
amounts of paper, and if either seems inevitable, they make sure it
Of course it is good to recycle, in fact it
should be obvious and automatic. There is an enormous amount of plastic
waste in the oceans and it is getting into the food chain. It could
contribute significantly to reduction in biodiversity. Urgent action is
needed. The obvious solution is a tax on plastic, but humans don't seem to be intelligent enough for that yet ;-)
But this problem cannot be compared with the
problem of global warming, which is going to cause hundreds of millions
and might even wipe out humanity if natural
warming, triggered by anthropogenic warming, gets out of control. The
amount of fuel that is burned so an average participant can attend a
conference is enormous by comparison to the amount of
plastic or paper that the same person throws away during the conference
or while traveling to and fro. A modern jet
burns 3 liters of fuel per person per 100 km. If you travel 20 000 km
(e.g. Los Angeles to Frankfurt, plus a shorter flight to a smaller
destination, plus the return trip), you will use 600
liters of fuel. Imagine that: 600 containers of fuel, each
the size of a liter of milk, piled up on a table, total mass: half a ton. Compare that
with the plastic and paper rubbish that you use
at a conference, and in transit to and from. Incidentally, the mass of the carbon dioxide
produced is 3.7 times bigger than the mass of carbon burned.
Promoting recycling is good, but it does not make us innocent. It is
important to address the most important problem first, which is flying,
and give it highest priority.
Planes versus trains
There are no trains across the Atlantic (although there is a history of
transatlantic tunnel proposals). But these days every major discipline,
and innumerable subdisciplines, have regular good conferences in both
Europe and North America - not to mention other continents. For
academics in Europe or North America, it is seldom necessary to cross
the Atlantic to attend good conferences, keep up to date with major
developments, and maintain a good social-academic network. Besides,
Immanuel Kant changed the history of philosophy without leaving
When people decide to fly because it's faster and sometimes cheaper
than rail, they may forget the time and money involved in getting from
the town to the airport at one end, and from the airport to the town at
the other. In both cases, a taxi may be necessary - especially if
public transport is poor, nonexistent, or not running early in the
morning, late in the evening or on Sunday. Railway stations are near
the middle of town.
In a night train, one may arrive at a conference destination without
consuming any working time at all. Shorter flights are usually confined
to daylight hours. To fly, you may have to travel to an airport
(arriving 1-2 hours early), take off twice, and travel into town from
the final airport, arriving at midday - whereas the night train arrived
early in the morning. Night trains may allow passengers to sleep all
night, whereas jet-setters may rise at 4:30 am for a 5 am taxi. A bed
on a train may cost much less than a night in a hotel or the difference
between economy and business on a flight.
Further advantages of trains:
Given these arguments, the signatories to this declaration are hardly
making a sacrifice. Instead, we are publicly deciding to take global
warming and the rights of future generations seriously.
- flexibility (you can usually buy the ticket at the last minute, use it for different trains, and sit where you like)
(more legroom and elbowroom, no seat-belts, no safety presentations,
more space to use a laptop, often with power and internet; second class
train seats are like business class flight seats)
luggage problems (no separate cabin luggage, no security checks, no
weight limits, no waiting at luggage carousels, no lost luggage)
An Interrail ticket (for Europeans) or a
Eurrail ticket (for non-Europeans) allows you to pay for most train fares in advance with maximum flexibility. Another option is the German Bahncard. Europeans often travel through Germany to get to conferences. It's in
the middle of Europe, after all. For 260
Euros/year you can get a Bahncard with which you can buy half-price
tickets between German destinations at the last minute and without
reservation (except on night trains). But watch out: the Bahncard is
sold as a subscription, and if you want to avoid paying for a second
year, you have to cancel the card in writing well before the end of the
Unfortunately, neither of these options includes the
channel tunnel between France and Britain.
You may get a discount, but even the reduced fair is pretty expensive,
and you can save a lot by buying it in advance, which reduces your
flexibility. The reasons are presumably privatisation, profit, and
lack of competition (link). When the UK sold the tunnel, they reduced national debt in the short term, but what of the long term? Given the ever-widening wealth gap, the best way to reduce national debt is to tax the rich
(rather than allowing the rich to avoid taxes, which seems to be
current policy all over the world, and includes an extraordinary
tolerance for tax havens). Logically, the more money the rich have, the
easier it is for them to pay bills such as the national debt. The money
has to come from somewhere. Until this problem is solved, it will be
cheaper to fly than take the train between
Britain and the European mainland. Needless to say the consequences are catastrophic and they are being almost totally ignored.
A personal note from the author
must have attended 100 academic conferences. On this basis, my
contribution to climate
change is surely bigger than that of the average
middle-class western person, even if I have mostly cycled to work for all of my working life. I have had a
lot of fun at conferences, as well as getting lots of creative ideas
for my research and starting new research projects together with the
world's best researchers in my field, so I now feel an obligation to give something back.
If any colleagues find this text confronting, I offer my sincere apologies. It is not easy to find the
most effective and appropriate way to send these messages. I am constantly thinking
about new approaches and always welcome constructive suggestions. To
those who think I am an opportunist, doing this for my own benefit, let
me say this: I am unaware of any possible benefit to me personally from
this activity, apart from the satisfaction of knowing that I made a
contibution to worldwide efforts along similar lines. If anything, I
have lost time that I could have used to write more research in my
field, which ultimately would have benefited me. I have presumably also
lost career opportunities. But these things are tiny by comparison with
what is at stake, namely hundreds of millions of future lives and the
quality of life of our children and grandchildren.
I have been accused of lacking empathy for my academic colleagues. That
is an interesting point. This project is motivated by the 20 000
children who die every dayin
developing countries in connection with hunger, disease and
violence. That is the mother of all shocking death rates. It will
decrease over the coming decade as developing countries gradually
emerge from poverty in response to projects such as the UN's
Sustainable Development Goals. After that, it will
go up again due to climate change. Climate science says that we are
already causing that future increase in the death rate by our current
emissions. We are doing this right now! The
project to reduce academic flying will succeed when we academics feel
empathy for those children and their parents: 40 000 adults, every
at least the past two decades, it has been clear to most of
us that flying to academic conferences is happening at considerable cost to future
generations. We should have known better. I for one am now
declaring myself guilty and trying to do something about
it. At the very least, this is better than feeling guilty and going nothing.
Better late than never! I respectfully ask my colleagues and
researchers in all
academic disciplines to join me.
The opinions expressed on
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