Guest essay by Eric Worrall
h/t Willie Soon – a group of Cambridge Conservation Scientists have discovered that greens enjoy the same carbon belching perks as the rest of us, and rarely purchase carbon offsets or make other personal sacrifices such as reducing meat consumption.
Conservationists take nine flights a year, despite knowing danger to environment, study shows
Sarah Knapton, science editor
10 OCTOBER 2017 • 5:52PM
Conservationists may preach about the importance of going green to save the planet, but most have a carbon footprint which is virtually no different to anyone else, a new study has shown.
Scientists as Cambridge University were keen to find out whether being fully informed about global warming, plastic in the ocean or the environmental impact of eating meat, triggers more ethical behaviour.
But when they examined the lifestyles of conservation scientists they discovered most still flew frequently – an average of nine flights a year – ate meat or fish approximately five times a week and rarely purchased carbon offsets for their own emissions.
They were also less green in travelling to work than medics, and kept more dogs and cats. A recent study suggested pets are a hefty ecological burden. It takes more than two acres of grazing pasture to keep a medium-sized dog fed with meat, while the eco-footprint of a cat is similar to a Volkswagen Golf.
Even the study’s four authors – all conservation scientists – admitted that between them they took 31 flights in 2016 and had each eaten two meat dinners in the week before submitting the research.
The abstract of the study;
The environmental footprints of conservationists, economists and medics compared
Author Andrew Balmford, Lizzy Cole, Chris Sandbrook, Brendan Fisher
Many conservationists undertake environmentally harmful activities in their private lives such as flying and eating meat, while calling for people as a whole to reduce such behaviors. To quantify the extent of our hypocrisy and put our actions into context, we conducted a questionnaire-based survey of 300 conservationists and compared their personal (rather than professional) behavior, across 10 domains, with that of 207 economists and 227 medics. We also explored two related issues: the role of environmental knowledge in promoting pro-environmental behavior, and the extent to which different elements of people’s footprint co-vary across behavioral domains. The conservationists we sampled have a slightly lower overall environmental footprint than economists or medics, but this varies across behaviors. Conservationists take fewer personal flights, do more to lower domestic energy use, recycle more, and eat less meat – but don’t differ in how they travel to work, and own more pets than do economists or medics. Interestingly, conservationists also score no better than economists on environmental knowledge and knowledge of pro-environmental actions. Overall footprint scores are higher for males, US nationals, economists, and people with higher degrees and larger incomes, but (as has been reported in other studies) are unrelated to environmental knowledge. Last, we found different elements of individuals’ footprints are generally not intercorrelated, and show divergent demographic patterns. These findings suggest three conclusions. First, lowering people’s footprints may be most effectively achieved via tailored interventions targeting higher-impact behaviors (such as meat consumption, flying and family size). Second, as in health matters, education about environmental issues or pro-environmental actions may have little impact on behavior. Last, while conservationists perform better on certain measures than other groups, we could (and we would argue, must) do far more to reduce our footprint.
Read more (paywalled): http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S000632071730071X
I strongly suspect many frequent flying greens have a transactional view of climate, they justify personal environmental excess by virtue of the work they are doing. In their minds, any personal excess is likely justified by their efforts to convince the rest of us to make lifestyle sacrifices.
A wind farm engineer I once knew justified buying a diesel guzzling pleasure boat on the grounds of all the good he did, filling the landscape with wind turbines.
Of course, if any greens really wish they had an alternative to flying; there is still time to sign my petition, to ensure that climate scientists have access to all the latest teleconferencing equipment, so they never again have to travel in person to attend a climate conference.