The science of climate change says that we should all be making changes to our lives in order to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide we release in to the atmosphere. Switch off those lights, buy a hybrid, and do your bit. But what about the scientists themselves?
Ryan Brook of the University of Calgary in Canada believes that researchers in to climate change should be mindful of saying “Do as I say, not as I do.” Scientists who undertake expeditions to the polar regions in the name of studying climate change actually have rather large carbon footprints themselves.
Writing in the June issue of Arctic, the journal of the UoC’s Arctic Institute of North America, Brook calculates that his own research footprint amounts to 8300 kg of CO2 per year. In comparison an average citizen of the Canadian capital Toronto produces 8600 kg of CO2 per year.
“My research footprint is about the same as the annual footprint of an average Toronto resident. Basically, I have two footprints—my own personal life, which is moderate, and my research footprint,” he says.
The figure is so high because of the numerous helicopters, planes and ships required to carry out climate change research. One possible solution is for scientists to purchase carbon offsets for their research. Whilst Brook says his colleagues “dismiss them as a sham”, he believes that buying offsets will promote dialogue and leadership from the scientific community.
“There aren’t necessarily any easy answers, but we need to start talking about it,” says Brook. “This is particularly important for the next generation of scientists being trained and I hope to see them become leaders in this issue.”