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On the Travel Emissions of Sustainability Science Research

Author

Listed:
  • Timothy Waring

    () (Sustainable Solutions Initiative, School of Economics, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469, USA)

  • Mario Teisl

    () (Sustainable Solutions Initiative, School of Economics, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469, USA
    These authors contributed equally to this work.)

  • Eva Manandhar

    () (Sustainable Solutions Initiative, School of Economics, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469, USA
    These authors contributed equally to this work.)

  • Mark Anderson

    () (Sustainable Solutions Initiative, School of Economics, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469, USA
    These authors contributed equally to this work.)

Abstract

This paper presents data on carbon emissions generated by travel undertaken for a major sustainability science research effort. Previous research has estimated CO 2 emissions generated by individual scientists, by entire academic institutions, or by international climate conferences. Here, we sought to investigate the size, distribution and factors affecting the carbon emissions of travel for sustainability research in particular. Reported airline and automobile travel of participants in Maine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative were used to calculate the carbon dioxide emissions attributable to research-related travel over a three-year period. Carbon emissions varied substantially by researcher and by purpose of travel. Travel for the purpose of dissemination created the largest carbon footprint. This result suggests that alternative networking and dissemination models are needed to replace the high carbon costs of annual society meetings. This research adds to literature that questions whether the cultural demands of contemporary academic careers are compatible with climate stabilization. We argue that precise record keeping and routine analysis of travel data are necessary to track and reduce the climate impacts of sustainability research. We summarize the barriers to behavioral change at individual and organizational levels and conclude with suggestions for reducing climate impacts of travel undertaken for sustainability research.

Suggested Citation

  • Timothy Waring & Mario Teisl & Eva Manandhar & Mark Anderson, 2014. "On the Travel Emissions of Sustainability Science Research," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 6(5), pages 1-18, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:6:y:2014:i:5:p:2718-2735:d:35874
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Gowdy, John M., 2008. "Behavioral economics and climate change policy," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 68(3-4), pages 632-644, December.
    2. Scott Barrett, 2008. "The Incredible Economics of Geoengineering," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 39(1), pages 45-54, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Maria La Gennusa & Patrizia Ferrante & Barbara Lo Casto & Gianfranco Rizzo, 2015. "An Integrated Environmental Indicator for Urban Transportation Systems: Description and Application," Energies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(10), pages 1-19, October.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    carbon footprint; sustainability science; travel; research culture; climate change; university carbon emissions;

    JEL classification:

    • Q - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics
    • Q0 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General
    • Q2 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q3 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products

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