The Covid-19 pandemic has unexpectedly shown us a way to reduce the carbon footprint and therefore fight climate change – by removing in-person conferences. A to study titled “The Trend towards Virtual and Hybrid Conferencing May Be an Effective Climate Change Mitigation Strategy,” published in Nature Communications, states that the transition from face-to-face to virtual conferences can dramatically reduce the carbon footprint by 94% and 90% energy consumption. The study also demonstrated that spatially optimal hubs for hybrid conferences have the potential to reduce carbon footprints and energy consumption by 60-70%, with no more than half of attendees online. Lectures involve a lot of energy consuming activities like flying on planes, cooking food, printing papers and more. Covid-19 has forced businesses to hold these home meetings, reducing many carbon footprint events. The study found that “in 2017, more than 1.5 billion attendees from over 180 countries participated in trade events. The carbon footprint per participant reaches up to 3,000 kg CO2 equivalent, as shown by previous life cycle assessment (LCA) studies, suggesting that the annual carbon footprint of the global fuel industry event-driven is of the same order of magnitude as the annual GHG emissions of the United States as a whole. “
“We all go to conferences. We get on the plane, we drive, we check in at a hotel, give a talk, meet people – and we’re done, ”said lead author Fengqi You, Roxanne E. and Michael J. Zak engineering professor. of Energy Systems and faculty member of the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability. “But we’ve looked at this holistically and behind the scenes, conventions generate a lot of carbon, use a lot of energy, print a lot of paper, offer a lot of food – not to mention creating municipal solid waste. Yet video conferencing also requires energy and equipment consumption. Planning a conference means a lot to consider.
A report on the findings from Cornell University suggested that organizers of hybrid and in-person meetings should carefully select hubs and take into account modes of transport and distances. For virtual conferences, carbon reduction opportunities include improving the energy efficiency of the information and communication technology sector and increasing the share of renewable energies in power grids.
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