Sometime before GHGT-11, I directed you to a blog by Sam Pickard, a researcher from the University of Leeds in the UK, who was travelling to GHGT-11 overland to assess the potential of low carbon transport options.
I asked Sam what his motives for this experiment were:
Although as engineers and scientists we often focus on the technological changes that need to occur if we are to substantially reduce global GHG emissions and our resource consumption we often overlook the behavioural changes that are equally (some may say more) necessary too. In light of this, and the well-established damaging impacts of flying, I decided to start thinking about whether I could travel to GHGT in a way that could be more sustainable. The problem was, I couldn’t find any data on how the impact of such a venture could be compared to the status quo. So, I thought I would try and find out.
Do you feel that once the calculations have been done it will prove more carbon efficient?
I don’t want to pre-judge the results and because I am also including my personal footprint I think it is going to be a pretty involved calculation to actually quantify the impact of either of the options. That said, a back of the envelope calculation estimates that 2 UK – Far East return flights (I attended WRF12 in Beijing shortly before GHGT) would emit about 4 tonnes of CO2 and if you wanted to take into account the true radiative forcing due to the emissions being at high altitudes, the equivalence is somewhere around 7 t-CO2 which is about half of the average UK persons annual footprint – so it is a quite a big target to aim at.
Perhaps the most important aspect of looking at the slower system though is that it offers the greatest opportunity for improvement. So, even if it turns out travel by train with a little bit of boat is currently worse for the environment, through things like increasing low-carbon electrification present the potential for huge cuts in the future impacts but sadly such opportunities are not so easily realisable in the aviation industry.
Assuming it is, and you could afford the time again, would you repeat the process for a similar distance?
Part of the reason I’m doing the trip is to highlight that a different way of doing things is possible, even if to get there requires some extra effort. I realise I’m lucky to be in a position that means I can take my work away with me for a substantial amount of time, but if such a situation arose again in the future and I could justify the time then I’d be happy to do it all over again. Maybe next time I’ll avoid some of the minor issues I ran into too!
So what are your thoughts on the conference?
I’ve really enjoyed GHGT-11. To be honest, having taken so long to get here I’ve felt like it had to live up to expectations and I had to make sure it was worthwhile and it certainly was. It’s great to see the variety of research on display and the size of the conference at first made me think I’d never have a chance to speak to all the world leading experts I was hoping to get the ear of at some point. However, that really hasn’t happened. Through the student mentoring programme I was quickly introduced to some of the high flyers and that gave me the confidence to approach others during the conference. I’ve seen some highly engaging talks and some provocative panel discussions and through talking to people over coffee or at the poster sessions I’ve really got a better grasp of the breadth of knowledge CCS has achieved and the issues CCS faces as the industry moves forward.
And what stand-out messages have you taken from the sessions?
Stand out messages: it’s amazing how many talented people are working in this area and yet the industry is still stalling. There is a real need to secure backing from the non-CCS community (governments, communities and markets in particular) if we are to react in time to avoid dangerous climate change.
The organisation has been extremely slick and the conference has run like clockwork, the only things I would say though, more veggie food options and more coffee availability next time please (hoping I get to come to GHGT-12)!
For more information on Sam’s travels, and his journey and experiences, check out his blog at: http://lowco2motives.wordpress.com/
Your GHGT-11 Blogger,