Recently, 13 major universities launched the University Climate Change Coalition. Despite their commitment, academics are accumulating big carbon footprints when they fly frequently for their professional lifestyles. According to the EPA, a passenger vehicle emits about 4.7 metric tons of CO2 per year and a round-trip flight from Washington, D.C., to Beijing generates around the same amount of CO2 per passenger seated in the economy class.
One solution is to increase the cost of travel by requiring professors and their sponsors to pay for the social cost of carbon. This will cause academics to prioritize traveling only to important events. The first way to approach this is to require professors to file reports on how much they traveled by flight annually. The second way is to establish an internal carbon tax with tiers for academics or their sponsors to pay for. Those below a specific travel amount can be exempted. Otherwise, a certain amount per ton of CO2.
Despite this solution, academic travel only accounts for a small portion of all air travel. Additionally, the solution could be a restriction to academic freedom since academics should travel anywhere to gather data or to present their findings. In the end, the solution will ultimately benefit universities because it shows everyone that universities are willing to take the lead to lower carbon footprint cycle.
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