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The CO2 Elephant in the Room: Curbing the Carbon Footprint of Astronomy

29 Jul 2020, 21:23 UTC
The CO2 Elephant in the Room: Curbing the Carbon Footprint of Astronomy
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This guest post was written by Isobel Romero-Shaw. Isobel is a PhD student at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. She tries to figure out how black holes and neutron stars meet up and crash together by studying the vibrations that these collisions send rippling through space-time. This sounds thrilling, but on a day-to-day basis it mainly involves debugging code. When she’s done debugging, Isobel likes to spend time reading, drawing, and exploring.
Although the carbon footprint of the average astronomer might lead you to believe we’re all wearing clown shoes, the situation we find ourselves in is no joke.The average human being is responsible for the release of about 7 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere every year — roughly equivalent to the heft of one fully-grown male elephant. This in itself is a problem; we must reduce our net carbon emissions to zero before 2050 in order to maintain a habitable planet. Nonetheless, the carbon emissions of astronomers put the global average in the shade. In their recent study on the carbon emissions of Australian astronomers, Dr. Adam Stevens et al. found that the average astronomer could be sending more than 37 tonnes of CO2 — that’s five CO2 ...

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