Scientists who travel frequently for conferences or fieldwork are under pressure to justify their (large) carbon footprint. With the increased power of technology for both online streaming and remote observations, should the number of people attending conferences and going on fieldwork decrease? What are the benefits of attending a conference in person or going on fieldwork, and does that outweigh the negative of an enhanced carbon footprint?
During this Great Debate, we will discuss two activities that currently contribute greatly to our carbon footprint: 1) conference attendance and 2) data acquisition through fieldwork. For the first topic, we will focus on the question: what are the advantages and disadvantages of attending conferences in person, which often includes long-range travelling, instead of online streaming the conference? For the second topic we address the question: with the increasing number of remote observations, should scientists still be travelling long distances for fieldwork?
Mark Smith, founder of seat61.com. This website and blog provides information on no-fly travel across the world, and has helped hundreds of attendees of the EGU conference in Vienna over the years. He has won a number of responsible tourism awards including 'best low carbon transport and technology initiative'.
Ella Gilbert, PhD student at the British Antarctic Survey and University of East Anglia. Ella has experience in fieldwork at both ends of the Earth, is an active science communicator and is an advocate for reducing carbon, both within science and in her personal life.
Dr. Sudheer Kumar Tiwari, an early career scientist working at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay in Mumbai. Sudheer often has to fly to conferences which are held in Europe or the USA. He has many years of experience in fieldwork for structural geology, and has often travelled by train or car to access these places.
Prof. Susanne Buiter, programme committee chair for EGU and professor at RWTH Aachen University. Susanne was instrumental in swiftly changing EGU 2020 to an online-only format, and has first hand knowledge of the advantages and challenges of hosting large conferences online. With her background in solid earth geology, she also has experience in fieldwork.