Estimate of the carbon footprint of astronomical research infrastructures

Status Report From: e-Print archive
Posted: Monday, January 24, 2022

Jürgen Knödlseder, Sylvie Brau-Nogué, Mickael Coriat, Philippe Garnier, Annie Hughes, Pierrick Martin, Luigi Tibaldo

The carbon footprint of astronomical research is an increasingly topical issue with first estimates of research institute and national community footprints having recently been published. As these assessments have typically excluded the contribution of astronomical research infrastructures, we complement these studies by providing an estimate of the contribution of astronomical space missions and ground-based observatories using greenhouse gas emission factors that relate cost and payload mass to carbon footprint. We find that currently worldwide active astronomical research infrastructures have a carbon footprint of 20.3±3.3 Mt CO2e and an annual emission of 1169±249 kt CO2e / yr, corresponding to a footprint of 36.6±14.0 t CO2e / yr per astronomer. Compared to contributions from other aspects of astronomy research activity, our results suggest that research infrastructures make the single largest contribution to the carbon footprint of an astronomer. We discuss the limitations and uncertainties of our method, and explore measures that can bring greenhouse gas emissions from astronomical research infrastructures towards a sustainable level.

Comments: 48 pages, 6 tables, 2 figures

Subjects: Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM)

Cite as: arXiv:2201.08748 [astro-ph.IM] (or arXiv:2201.08748v1 [astro-ph.IM] for this version)

Submission history

From: Jürgen Knödlseder 

[v1] Fri, 21 Jan 2022 15:42:03 UTC (68 KB)


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