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Comprehensive carbon footprint of Earth and environmental science laboratories: implications for sustainable scientific practice
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  • Odin Marc,
  • maialen Barret,
  • Sylvain Biancamaria,
  • Karin Dassas,
  • Antoine Firmin,
  • Laure Gandois,
  • François Gheusi,
  • Sylvain Kuppel,
  • Marion Maisonobe,
  • Arnaud Mialon,
  • Loïs Monnier,
  • Florian Pantillon,
  • Florence Toublanc
Odin Marc

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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maialen Barret
CRBE, INP Toulouse
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Sylvain Biancamaria
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Karin Dassas
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Antoine Firmin
INP Toulouse
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Laure Gandois
Laboratoire Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Environnement - UMR 5245
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François Gheusi
LAERO, Université Paul Sabatier
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Sylvain Kuppel
Géosciences Environnement Toulouse, CNRS - IRD - UPS - CNES, Gif-sur-Yvett, France
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Marion Maisonobe
Laboratoire Géographie-cités (UMR 8504) - CNRS
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Arnaud Mialon
CNRS-Universite J. Fourier
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Loïs Monnier
GET, OMP, university of Toulouse
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Florian Pantillon
Laboratoire d'Aérologie
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Florence Toublanc
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To limit global warming below 2°C, a drastic overall reduction from current CO2 emissions is needed. We argue that scientists should also participate in this effort in their professional activity and especially Earth scientists, on the grounds of maintaining credibility and leading by example. The strategies and measures to reach a low-carbon scientific activity require detailed estimates of the current footprint of laboratories. Here, we present the footprint of six laboratories in Earth, environmental and space sciences, representative of the AGU community, with a comprehensive scope also including international research infrastructures. We propose a novel method to attribute the footprint of any research infrastructure to any given research laboratory. Our results highlight that most laboratories have annual footprints reaching 10-20 tonnes CO2 equivalent per person (tCO2e.p-1), dominated by infrastructures and specifically satellites in three cases (with footprints up to 11 tCO2e.p-1 or 60%), while air-travels and purchases remain within the top three sources in all cases (2-4 tCO2e p-1 or 10-30% each). Consequently, footprints related to commuting and laboratory functioning, about 2 tCO2e.p-1 (20%) or less, are relatively modest compared to infrastructures, purchases and air-travels. Thus, reduction measures ignoring infrastructures may not be able to achieve reductions larger than 20 to 35% even with flight quotas and a substantial reduction of purchases. Finally, we also discuss how a deeper transformation of scientific practices, away from a fast science ideal, could make Earth and environmental sciences more sustainable and at the forefront of a rapid and drastic social bifurcation.
05 Mar 2024Submitted to ESS Open Archive
05 Mar 2024Published in ESS Open Archive