Carbon Policy

Second iteration: July 16th, 2019

We all are experiencing climate change. I feel a personal responsibility to limit my carbon emissions when and where I can.

Below is the Nugent Lab Carbon Policy. This policy is not perfect, and will be revisited and improved over time. I welcome feedback.

Travel is, by far, the biggest source of Nugent Lab carbon emissions. A secondary source of emissions is the electricity that powers our computers and heats and cools our work space. This electricity is not from a sustainable source. We support the effort to transition Olin College to renewable energy.

Some scientists are concerned that reducing travel will harm their academic success. Please see “Academic air travel has a limited influence on professional success” by Wynes et al., 2019, and this related article in Science.

Not everyone can drastically reduce travel this way. Each researcher has unique demands and constraints. The Nugent Lab can reduce our travel without significantly impacting our research, so I think we should. Many scientists have chosen to stop flying entirely (see the signatories of No Fly Climate Sci). I would love to hear from other academics who have adopted similar policies.

The Nugent Lab follows these guidelines.

 1. When possible, eliminate travel.

Advisory Groups and Panels. If an advisory group or review panel is not local, I will remotely attend. If remote attendance is not an option, I will likely decline.

Speaking Engagements. I will generally decline speaking engagements that require air travel. In rare cases I will make exceptions for talks with a particularly large or under-served audience.

Conferences. Conferences are a key part of scientific discourse. The time spent meeting people in person is valuable. Current remote access options cannot reproduce this. There are many conferences in planetary science. This includes the Division of Planetary Science meeting, the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, the European Planetary Science Confrence, Asteroids Comets and Meteors, the Planetary Defense Conference, the American Geophysical Union annual meeting, the Geological Society of America meeting, AbSciCon, and the annual American Astronomical Society meetings. The Nugent Lab (Dr. Nugent and summer students) will attend one conference per academic year.

2. When possible, don't take a plane.

We will consider carbon emissions when choosing to what events to attend. We will prioritize conferences and events within a <6 hour drive or <10 hour train ride.

3. Buy carbon offsets and choose direct flights when air travel can't be avoided.

Attending a conference can be transformative for an undergraduate's career. In some years, there will not be a local conference option. In those cases, we will prioritize direct flights, which reduce carbon emissions over connecting flights. Additionally, we will buy carbon offsets. If these carbon offsets cannot be paid for via relevant grants, I will pay for them with my personal funds.

Carbon offsets are an imperfect solution. They are less good than not emitting the carbon in the first place. Carbon offsets are calculated using standard metrics, and then I multiply that by two for extra margin. I wish to err on the side of too much of an offset than too little. We are aware of the problems with forest carbon offsets, and will avoid those where possible.