The nearly 300 climate scientists from 60 countries attending the big IPCC conference in Kathmandu this week are aware that each of them will have emitted between 6-10 tons of carbon flying to and from Nepal. Civil aviation contributes more than 3% of the carbon emissions that is warming the atmosphere.
Ironically, this year’s freak monsoon was partly caused by climate change, and forced many of the flights that scientists were taking to Kathmandu this week to hold for hours in the air, or to be diverted, further increasing their carbon footprint.
Many in social media are asking if flying 300 scientists across the planet to write voluminous reports that governments ignore is worth the carbon it generates. Why can’t they just Skype?
“As individuals we try to reduce travel as much as we can, using Skype, but given the complicated nature of the issue and how fast it is changing, some things we just have to do face-to-face,” explains Bronwyn Hayward, who flew in from New Zealand, but combined her trip with a fact-finding visit to community forestry user groups in Kaski and Bandipur.
“Tourism is also essential for the economies of Nepal and New Zealand, but travellers come from all over the world burning all that carbon,” she added.
Indeed, some scientists said they regularly buy carbon offsets for flights to their conferences, while others said decisions taken at these conferences are too important to be done on Facebook Messenger.
As the host government, Nepal has tried to ensure that the weeklong meeting at the Yak & Yeti Hotel in Kathmandu will be as green as possible. All conference meals are vegetarian, and the use of plastic is actively discouraged.