Carbon Footprints of Research Projects and Institutes

18 March 2021 10:00 with Clarisse Aujoux and Jan Rybizki

18 Mar 2021 | Time: 10:00 | virtual | Web Seminar | English with automized translation into your language (detailed instructions here)

No registration required.

Speaker: Clarisse Aujoux; Pre-print of the paper; Recording on YouTube:

We present a pioneering estimate of the global yearly greenhouse gas emissions of a large-scale Astrophysics experiment over several decades: the Giant Array for Neutrino Detection (GRAND). The project aims at detecting ultra-high energy neutrinos with a 200,000 radio antenna array over 200,000 km2 as of the 2030s. With a fully transparent methodology based on open source data, we calculate the emissions related to three unavoidable sources: travel, digital technologies and hardware equipment. We find that these emission sources have a different impact depending on the stages of the experiment. Digital technologies and travel prevail for the small-scale prototyping phase (GRANDProto300), whereas hardware equipment (material production and transportation) and data transfer/storage largely outweigh the other emission sources in the large-scale phase (GRAND200k). In the mid-scale phase (GRAND10k), the three sources contribute equally. This study highlights the considerable carbon footprint of a large-scale astrophysics experiment, but also shows that there is room for improvement. We discuss various lines of actions that could be implemented. The GRAND project being still in its prototyping stage, our results provide guidance to the future collaborative practices and instrumental design in order to reduce its carbon footprint.   

Speaker: Jan Rybizki; Publication on MPI-A CO2 Assessment; Recording on YouTube:

As astronomers of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA) in Heidelberg, Germany, we have assessed our work-related GHG emissions. We have assessed and summarized the MPIA’s research-related emissions for the year 2018, finding that the average MPIA astronomer produced at least 18.1 tCO2e of research-related GHG emissions in that year, a sobering three times the emissions needed for Germany to meet its 2030 goals, set in accordance with the Paris Agreement. We identified the areas in which we produced the most GHG emissions and urge other institutes to conduct their own assessment. Each institute will face a unique set of challenges, depending on its location, funding structure, and fields of research. These challenges can only be addressed once quantified.

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