SethWynes, Simon D.Donner, SteuartTannason, NoniNabors
We found no significant difference between Green and Not-green academics in total air travel emissions, or in the types of emissions that might be easiest to avoid.
Lowering the growth in greenhouse gas emissions from air travel may be critical for avoiding dangerous levels of climate change, and yet some individuals perceive frequent air travel to be critical to their professional success. Using a sample of 705 travellers at the University of British Columbia, we investigated the influence of career stage, research productivity, field of expertise, and other variables on academic air travel and the associated emissions. This is the first time that research has evaluated the link between observed air travel and academic success.
First, we compared air travel behaviour at different career stages and found that individuals at the start of their careers were responsible for fewer emissions from air travel than senior academics. Second, since career advancement may depend on an academic’s ability to form partnerships and disseminate their research abroad, we investigated the relationship between air travel emissions and publicly available bibliometric measurements.
We found no relationship between air travel emissions and metrics of academic productivity including hIa (h-index adjusted for academic age and discipline). There was, however, a relationship between emissions and salary that remains significant even when controlling for seniority. Finally, based on the premise that academics studying topics related to sustainability may have greater responsibility or motivation to reduce their emissions, we coded 165 researchers in our sample as either “Green” or “Not-green.”
We found no significant difference between Green and Not-green academics in total air travel emissions, or in the types of emissions that might be easiest to avoid. Taken together, this preliminary evidence suggests that there may be opportunities, especially for academics who study topics related to climate and sustainability, to reduce their emissions from air travel while maintaining productive careers.