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Estimating the global warming emissions of the LCAXVII conference: connecting flights matter

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Abstract

Purpose

Conferences are an important element of scientific activity but can also be a major cause of environmental burden. With this in mind, we analysed the global warming emissions of the 2017 annual conference of the American Center for Life Cycle Assessment (ACLCA), in order to estimate the carbon footprint and identify potential ways to reduce it.

Methods

We used survey data from participants as well as literature sources to complete an attributional assessment of the greenhouse gas emissions per participant. A method to calculate the ‘ideal’ location is proposed, which can be used to identify ‘unreasonably’ distant conference locations.

Results and discussion

The average emissions per participant were found to be 952 kg CO2eq, but with a large variability due to differences in travelled distance. Connecting flights were found to increase emissions up to 32% compared to direct flights, due to the increased number of take-offs and landings.

Conclusions

Results indicate that future studies should use distance-dependent flight emissions to increase the accuracy of the assessment. Some measures, such as meat-free menus, had a relatively minor contribution to emission reductions, but could be important as scientists advocating for the reduction of environmental burden should lead by example.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank the ACLCA board, Debbie Steckel and Prof. Ben Amor for giving us the opportunity to participate in the conference and conduct the survey. The authors also thank Joris Deschamps, Marianne Pedinotti-Castelle and Mohammad Davoud Heidari for their participation in an earlier version of the footprinting of the conference. Finally, we thank Brian Cox and co-authors for providing an early version of their results.

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Correspondence to Miguel F. Astudillo.

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Responsible editor: Mary Ann Curran

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Astudillo, M.F., AzariJafari, H. Estimating the global warming emissions of the LCAXVII conference: connecting flights matter. Int J Life Cycle Assess 23, 1512–1516 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-018-1479-z

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-018-1479-z

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