Reduce flying to academic conferences
Richard Parncutt

June 2015, revised January 2017

Further information

After writing this page I discovered a similar petition. Please sign it!

I 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 the change.

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”.
(2)    Editors (2014): "Too little, too late", Editorial, Nature Climate Change 4/1.
(3)    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".
(7)    IPCC, 2014; P. Carter (2009-2013): "Zero Carbon or Climate Catastrophe?",

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 biofuels.

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 role.

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 changes!


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
Why academics?
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 1
9th 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 conclusions.

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 climate science.

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 death.

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 developing countries.

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 this problem.

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, p.5).
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 have 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 of 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 academics?

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 professions.

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 doubt.

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

Many 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 understandable.

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 further.

Major 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 gets recycled. 

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 of deaths 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 Königsberg.

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.

Tip: 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 first.

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

I 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 day. 

For 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.

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