Bernhard, Germany


I used to fly quite a lot because as a scientist, I am used to going to conferences, visiting other institutions etc. Also, my family is spread out around the world.  I always felt bad about my climate impact, but only after the Fridays for Future demonstrations started did I realise how tight the remaining CO2 budget is in order to stay within the 1.5° limit of the Paris Agreement.  So I decided that I need to do something about this in my personal life. 

Besides being vegetarian and using electricity from renewable sources, it appeared that drastically reducing the amount of flying had a large impact on my CO2 footprint.  This was quite easy for me because, already being an established scientist, I no longer need all this travelling to advance my career.  So I made a pledge to not fly in 2020. 

Unexpectedly, due to the Corona pandemic, it turned out that I would not have flown anyway in 2020 regardless of my pledge, and I extended the pledge to 2021 and 2022 as well. But the pandemic also showed that a different scientific enterprise is possible, with a lot less flying, and online meetings instead.  

I hope a lot of this can be maintained in post-Corona times. I especially hope that in the future, it is no longer expected and necessary for young scientists to travel so much in order to establish themselves within their field of science. We all have the responsibility to push for change in scientific culture. 

Besides changing my own behaviour, I also try to spread the word that it is possible to travel distances less than 1000 km without flying. I therefore maintain a webpage (in German) where we collect reports from scientists travelling professionally over long distances without flying. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we haven’t received any more reports. But I hope we will soon pick up again where we left off.

Bernhard Steinberger