Mindful of climate change and encouraged by the results of bringing scientific talks and conferences online during the Covid-19 pandemic, the faculty members of The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT have agreed to slash their future greenhouse gas emissions from air travel at least in half.
The faculty resolution, approved May 5, 2021, and revised in July 2021, creates a policy to encourage meeting the goal by limiting annual estimated GHG emissions to a mid-range cut off per principal investigator (PI), or faculty member, per year. This is based on estimates of average, per-PI GHG emissions from two years prior to the Covid-19 pandemic (2018-2019). If any lab or the HQ exceeds the threshhold, it can face disincentives paid within the institute.
To meet the goal, faculty will seek to deliver more of their invited talks online and the Institute will fly in fewer speakers for its events, instead extending the offer for distant speakers to deliver their talks electronically. Institute public events such as symposia will be livestreamed, reducing the need for audience members to travel as well. As an additional step, the Institute will move more job interviews online, another practice that was required by the pandemic but can now remain in place because of its climate benefits.
Below you can see a tally of greenhouse gases emitted by flying -- and avoided by speaking remotely instead of flying -- for each PI and the Institute's Headquarters during fiscal year 2022. Every principal investigator (PI) met the goal of staying below the 2019 benchmark threshold of 6,000 kg of emissions.