Traveling for work: let’s think about the weather | Tech US News


AFTER working solidly for 3 years in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic without a proper vacation, my husband and I decided to fly to Europe during the winter of 2022 to catch up with family and enjoy a well-deserved break.

But the decision was not easy for me. An international flight to Athens followed by several domestic flights to the islands made me reflect on my own carbon footprint. The effects of climate change are happening now and are damaging our planet and consequently affecting human health.

Feeling guilty, I managed to convince my husband to travel around Greece by public transport and rent e-bikes whenever we could. The decision was great: the slower pace of the trip allowed us to enjoy it more; with our e-bikes we were able to access smaller villages, quieter beaches, forests and other parts of the islands where rental vehicles had to endure traffic, competition for parking and the risk of driving on one-lane village roads.

These simple measures allow us to feel much more comfortable knowing that we have reduced our carbon footprint during our travels, but there is more room for improvement.

We all dream of traveling and discovering. Unfortunately, however, tourism is contributing to 8% of the world’s carbon emissions and is projected to grow (here, here). Most of this footprint is from visitors from higher income countries.

What else can we do as a medical profession to reduce our carbon footprint during travel?

Medical conferences can attract hundreds of health professionals from around the world. The journey we choose is contributing to the climate problem we face. InSight+ has published several articles on how we can reduce our carbon footprint health care systems. But what about travel to work, lectures, conferences and medical events, including locally within Australia and internationally?

The COVID-19 pandemic gave us the gift of moving quickly to e-learning and telehealth. While we value the interaction and deep connection we develop with colleagues at conferences, we have to be much more cautious about our carbon footprint as we are challenged by the climate emergency, now well recognized by leading medical bodies.

The evidence on fossil fuel emissions from passenger vehicles, particularly cars, and aircraft is well known and incontrovertible.

Passenger vehicles contribute significantly to overall greenhouse gas emissions. A typical tourism that relies on fossil fuels such as gasoline, gasoline or diesel is estimated to contribute to producing at least 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO).2) per year, but may vary according to the type of fuel and the frequency of use of the vehicle. The more vehicles on the road, the more tons of CO2 released into the environment. Automobiles also produce methane and nitrous oxide from their exhaust pipes. Hydrofluorocarbon emissions are released by air conditioning vacuums. All these emissions contribute to global warming. In contrast, electric and hydrogen vehicles release no tailpipe emissions other than water vapor from hydrogen vehicles.

Commercial aviation operations in 2018 resulted in 918 million metric tons of CO22 emitted into the atmosphere and contributed to 2.4% of global CO22 emissions from the use of fossil fuels. Between 2013 and 2018, there was a 32% increase in aviation emissions. In addition, aviation emissions release other gases such as nitrous oxides, vapor trails, and cause cloud formation caused by altitude, which further contribute to the warming effect. The rapid increase in the number of passengers using air travel, especially with the growing population and ever cheaper flights, will further increase greenhouse gas emissions.

Trains are a preferable travel option if possible. Trains emit less carbon emissions than flights and passenger vehicles and are proving popular in many countries such as China, especially the use of high-speed trains to travel from city to city. The majority of passenger rail transport activity in the world uses electric trains.

What can we do to minimize our carbon footprint when we decide to travel for pleasure, education or work?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth was quickly adopted by the medical profession for consultations. The educational events, lectures and even workshops were given through telehealth or videoconference. Most meetings and events were held via teleconferences during the lockdown. They worked well, in my experience.

The conferences that took place during the pandemic were held entirely online or as a hybrid model. Is there a reason why we need to go back to international conferences that are entirely face-to-face, with no online participation?

As role models, medical professionals play a key role in this space. The pressure is on us all to act urgently to rapidly address and mitigate the causes of climate change by reducing our carbon footprint.

The Victorian Government recently announced a major step forward in our renewable energy ambitions to include a 95% renewable energy target by 2035, a 75-80% emissions reduction target by 2035 and a publicly owned energy corporation. If delivered, these should be positive steps forward for all states to take up in our challenge to address climate change.

Associate Professor Vicki Kotsirilos AM is a GP with over 35 years of clinical experience.

The statements or opinions expressed in this article reflect the views of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official policy of the AMA, the MJA or InSight+ unless otherwise indicated.

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