Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Another article of relevance:

"Hot Air Emitted by Climate Summit Equals 20,000 Cars (Update1)

By Alex Morales and Kim Chipman
Dec. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Government officials and activists flying to Bali, Indonesia, for the United Nations meeting on climate change will cause as much pollution as 20,000 cars in a year.

The delegates each will produce an average 4.07 metric tons of carbon dioxide, or CO2, to reach the resort island 950 kilometers (600 miles) from Jakarta, according to estimates e- mailed to Bloomberg by the UN agency holding the conference.

Some of the 187 nations participating in the two-week forum promised to offset their so-called carbon footprint by planting trees or buying emission credits. The symbolic actions won't help stop global warming, some scientists say.
``It's very hard for the public to understand that you come together with so many people to a very distant place and cause a lot of emissions, and at the same time talk about emission reductions,'' Artur Runge-Metzger, head of climate strategy for the European Commission, said yesterday in an interview in Bali, adding that he had offset his own emissions."

Apparently Swiss Re, IKEA, the David Suzuki Foundation and others have started using video-conferencing to reduce business air travel. A report on the ins and outs of video-conferencing as compared with face-to-face meetings has been compiled by the University of Bradford for British Telecom and can be read online:

Measuring the Carbon Footprint of Academic Travel

Five Lancaster Environment Centre researchers have travelled to the European Geosciences Union (EGU) General Assembly in Vienna by train to raise awareness of the environmental impact of academic travel. Their initiative was sponsored by the Department of Environmental Science and the Faculty of Science and Technology.


Higher Education Tackling Travel's Environmental Impact

June 27, 2007 - Leaders of more than 300 U.S. colleges and universities pledged to measure greenhouse gas emissions from all institution-funded air travel and consider carbon-offset policies as part of "a broad, continuous, higher education effort on climate change." Designed to help pursue full carbon neutrality, the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment aims to include more than 1,000 institutions by 2009.

A group of 12 university presidents hatched the formal effort last October at Arizona State University, during an Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education conference. This month, organizers publicly launched ACUPCC at a summit meeting in Washington. Through 2009, the group will work to attract additional signatories and establish "a broad, continuous, higher education effort on climate change." The framework is modeled on the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, which has been signed by more than 400 mayors.

By signing the document, collegiate leaders committed their institutions to completing within one year and updating annually a "comprehensive inventory of all greenhouse gas emissions (including emissions from electricity, heating, commuting and air travel)." ACUPCC organizers suggest participants use a "campus" version of a carbon calculator furnished by Clean Air-Cool Planet, which helps users tabulate emissions from both faculty/staff travel and student programs.


3. Current emission levels might be reduced through innovations such as by redesigning academic conferences to take place online, as "virtual" conferences, in which (for example) all participants participate through Webcams. Ideas to capture the benefit of realtime, personal contact include
(a) a virtual "hotel bar" (BYOB!) and
(b) lecture presentation screens in which all attendees appear as thumbnail images, so that participants can see who else is attending a presentation, raise their hand, and communicate directly with each other. While obviously sacrificing some of the benefits of more direct contact, perhaps such innovations will offer some advantages in addition to helping achieve sustainability.

Andrew Biggin of the University of Utrecht writes in Nature's Correspondence (Nature 448, 749; 2007):
Many of the world's most reputable and best-placed scientific organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Royal Society, the American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorological Society, have released strong and unequivocal statements regarding the dangers the world's population faces as anthropogenic climate change gains pace. Although such statements are effective in informing public opinion and thereby influencing policy on this important issue, they are not the most powerful means available.
A more potent approach would be for scientific organizations to make ambitious, high-profile moves to reduce their own contributions to climate change. Such activity could generate significant publicity and demonstrate that the organizations are taking the threat of climate change seriously. They would send a louder, clearer message that emissions reduction should be a priority.
Such moves, although necessarily bold, should not impair the organizations' abilities to achieve their primary aims. Rather, they should publicly demonstrate that reductions in any organization's environmental impact need not reduce its effectiveness. One example would be the more widespread inclusion of video-conferencing facilities in oral sessions at scientific meetings. Another could be the introduction of 'virtual poster sessions' with live audio connections.
If well-implemented, such measures would actually increase the effectiveness of a meeting while reducing its environmental impact. In particular, those who would otherwise not attend could now participate, which would lead to an increase both in the dissemination of research findings and in the interaction between members of the organization.

Environmental impacts of an international conference Hischier R.; Hilty L.
Environmental Impact Assessment ReviewVolume 22, Issue 5, October 2002, Pages 543-557

Sustainability in the Information Society

1. Introduction

A conference in the conventional form is a very resource-demanding process with considerable environmental impacts. As the host of the 15th International Environmental Informatics Symposium, held in Zurich, October 10–12, 2001, EMPA assessed the effectiveness of different measures to reduce the environmental impact of the conference using the life cycle assessment (LCA) method.

During the preparation of the conference, we considered the following measures to make the symposium more “environmentally friendly”:

(1)Reducing the conference materials produced for the participants to a minimum, but keeping the proceedings in book form.

(2)Eliminating the proceedings in book form, and giving participants a CD ROM instead.

(3)Holding a virtual conference to which no one travels, as all speeches and discussions could be offered on the Internet.

[3] was included as a hypothetical scenario because we were not in a position to completely “virtualize” the conference. However, this scenario gave us some interesting insights that could be worth considering in the organization of future conferences.

This study dealt exclusively with the direct environmental impacts caused by holding the conference, and did not deal with the—hopefully positive—indirect environmental effects that resulted from the fact that the conference promoted scientific progress and personal contacts. Of course, we are of the opinion that these indirect effects of an environmental informatics conference make a great contribution towards solving environmental problems. We want to demonstrate with this LCA study how a comparably positive effect could be had with less environmental impact.


5. Results and interpretation
The organizer of a conference can—first of all—influence the amount and kind of materials (e.g. printed matter) produced for organizing and holding the conference. We assumed that distributing a printed call for papers (besides e-mail distribution) as well as a printed program brochure is still inevitable in order to motivate enough people to submit papers to the conference and to participate. However, it is possible to reduce the additional printed material usually handed out to conference participants (city maps, notepads, all kind of booklets, as well as the bag holding all the conference materials) to a minimum.


when we look at the environmental impact caused by participants' travel, the discussion about the conference materials appears insignificant in comparison. The travel activities of the participants account for 96.3% of the total environmental load of the conference, the remaining 3.6% including, among other things, the full paper proceedings in book form and a simple cotton bag.


one alternative that would avoid the travel activities almost completely is a virtual conference, where all presentations and discussions are offered via the Internet. ... Obviously, this type of meeting would result in a huge reduction of the total environmental impact, even if we assume that more people would participate and that all of them would print out relevant parts of the proceedings.


On the other hand, one important function of a conference is to make direct personal contact with other participants possible—something that modern information technology has not yet been able to replace.

Taking this into account, a third alternative comes to mind which might deserve consideration in the future: a decentralized conference which takes place at several locations that can be reached with much less air travel, which are connected to one another live by suitable telecommunication facilities. Then the experience of direct contact to a smaller group would be available, and a global dialog would still be possible.


Under the assumption that the audience would be the same, the environmental load attributable to travel activities is more or less halved, while the rest of the is constant. Of course, it is more plausible that this form of conference would attract more people from the American and the Asian area than the Zurich conference because it could be accessed more easily. This would result in an increase of the absolute environmental load caused by the conference, while the environmental load per capita should remain roughly the same. This would be a typical example of the so-called rebound effect.


The environmental impact of an international conference such as “Environmental Informatics 2001” is clearly dominated by the travel activities of the participants. Among travel activities, the long-range flights are the dominant element. Minimizing air travel is, thus, the only way to attain a significant reduction in environmental impact.


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