The American Geophysical Union (AGU) is a corporation that I have been a member of a lot of my skilled profession as a scientist. According to press launch issued by the University of Georgia, it as “an international nonprofit scientific association with 60,000 members in 137 countries….established in 1919 by the National Research Council and operated as an unincorporated affiliate of the National Academy of Sciences for more than 50 years.” Simply put, for scientists spanning a number of disciplines, it’s a pinnacle and extremely respected group. Earlier this yr, I was surprised to study that had been chosen to obtain the AGU’s Climate Communication Prize. The AGU will honor the category of 2019 honorees at its Fall Meeting Banquet on December 11th in San Francisco. Unfortunately, I is not going to be there to obtain it.
Before explaining why, I ought to present an outline of the award itself. According to the AGU’s web site:
The Climate Communication Prize is given yearly to a scientist in recognition for the communication of local weather science to advertise scientific literacy, readability of message, and efforts to foster respect and understanding of science-based values, significantly round local weather change. Successful candidates work in a local weather science discipline and have had important impression speaking about local weather science with most of the people and different non-scientists.
Of the eight earlier recipients, a number of of them are people who I know personally and admire like Richard Alley, Katharine Hayhoe, and Michael Mann. In truth, I actually don’t imagine that I belong on the listing given the load of the names earlier than me. It is really a humbling honor and a blessing. By the best way, religion and science should not at odds with one another, however I digress. I am grateful to my colleague Dr. Kim Cobb for nominating me and all the colleagues that supported the nomination.
Though a member of the AGU for a few years, I virtually by no means attend its annual assembly in San Francisco, California. It falls very near my core skilled society’s annual assembly, the American Meteorological Society (AMS) of which I served as President. In truth, I have solely been to the AGU assembly twice in my profession. I took the prepare from Maryland to California within the early 2000s to attend, and extra just lately, I spoke throughout an invited NASA session on the AGU assembly in New Orleans. I drove from Georgia. You may theme rising. I don’t fly a lot anymore.
Candidly and to the dismay of my rapid household who likes to journey, I haven’t flown very a lot up to now 15 or so years. There are two main motive. First, I had a very unhealthy flight out of Denver a number of years in the past, and it spooked me. Ironically, it was meteorologically associated as a “rotor” of turbulence off the mountains was the offender. I actually haven’t been comfy flying since that incident however continued to take action. Second, my 16-year previous daughter may be very aware of environmental and local weather points like so many inside her era. They haven’t been tainted or biased by ideological, political, or financial narratives and tribalism. She always factors out our use of straws, vitality, water and so forth in our family. My spouse truly spent every week looking for her a biodegradable cellphone cowl. In latest years, I began considering extra about my carbon footprint. My most up-to-date automobile buy was a hybrid, and I attempt to add 1-2 days of meatless meals consumption into my food plan each week (not at all times efficiently).
By no means is my mitigation journey good, however it’s a small effort. Such particular person efforts are high quality, however it will take important nationwide and worldwide efforts to halt carbon dioxide tendencies within the graphic beneath. Unfortunately, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) simply issued a warning that temperatures may rise by 5.four to 9 levels F (three to five levels C) by the tip of the century.
Over the years, I realized that my disdain for flying was a possible carbon financial savings too. My flight to the AGU assembly, in accordance with the web site myclimate.org, would end in 1.2 tons of carbon. According to the Terrapass.com web site, “In one year, the average citizen in an industrialized country produces about 10 tons of carbon emissions.” The common American generates 23 tons of CO2.
My flight to San Francisco would gobble up 10% of the common industrialized citizen’s quantity (sorry it was simply Thanksgiving). Neil Debbage is one in every of my former doctoral college students on the University of Georgia. He just lately printed a research with Keith Debbage of University of North Carolina-Greensboro (his father) within the journal Annals of Tourism Research. The youthful Debbage, an assistant professor of geography and environmental sustainability in University of Texas-San Antonio’s Department of Political Science and Geography stated, “This paper provides one of the first efforts to quantify the carbon emissions associated with tourist air travel in the continental United States.” Key findings from the paper, in accordance with a college press launch, are:
- Almost 50% of the routes analyzed had been greater than a person’s annual mobility carbon finances for all sorts of transportation.
- Direct routes outperformed connecting routes by way of carbon emissions.
- Most direct routes produced carbon emissions beneath the 575 carbon dioxide kg/individual annual mobility cap.
The press launch identified that “the difference between direct and connecting routes was equivalent to operating a refrigerator for an entire year (or roughly 100 carbon dioxide kg/person).”
As famous earlier, I don’t usually attend the AGU assembly in California. I didn’t really feel the carbon emissions had been justified on condition that I am receiving an award for local weather communication and consciousness. If I was presenting a analysis paper or had different enterprise there, I might need thought-about the journey and located methods to offset the emissions.
I wish to shut with a few factors. Many local weather scientists and anxious residents like Greta Thunberg are selecting to change their journey routines. I am one in every of them. It shouldn’t be due to trolls or critics. It is a private alternative that has emerged for me over the span of 15 years. These private selections should not shaming statements or critiques for somebody that also chooses to fly. From my perspective, there isn’t any “holier than thou” judgment in the direction of anybody that chooses to fly. The actuality is that many individuals must, wish to, or have to, and it’s okay. In truth for younger students and plenty of worldwide scientists, face-to-face interactions at conferences or conferences are important for profession improvement.
I am at all times baffled by (however not naive to) strategic makes an attempt to pit individuals towards one another for his or her private selections. My motive for writing this text was to not “preach” to you about what you select to do. Instead, it was to clarify my absence from the AGU Honors Banquet subsequent week, provide you with a “heads up” on why I may request a webinar choice should you invite me to offer a lecture removed from Georgia and to introduce the attention-grabbing analysis by the Debbages. Keith Debbage even presents recommendation based mostly on their analysis. He stated, “One potential tactic to mitigate the carbon footprint associated with tourist air travel is to select nonstop routes whenever possible.” Carbon offsets and different modes of journey are additionally viable choices.