Calculating the global carbon footprint of space science

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credit: natural astronomy (2022). DOI: 10.1038 / s41550-022-01639-6

A team of researchers at the University of Toulouse has attempted to calculate the entire global footprint of space science, including ground-based and space-based observatories. In their paper published in the journal natural astronomyThe team suggests that the space science footprint adds up to 1.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere each year, and has a lifetime footprint of 20.3 million metric tons. Andrew Ross Wilson, in association with the University of Strathclyde, published a News and Views article in the same issue of the journal describing the difficulty of calculating the impact of astronomical research efforts and the methods used to do so; It also outlines the work the team has done with this new effort.

The work done by the researchers involved obtaining and researching previous research papers in astronomy which included descriptions of the amount of energy used during 46 space projects and 39 land projects. These projects included such things as building and operating new observatories as well as launching space observatories. They also note the projections given for energy costs Necessary to sustain such projects over their lifetime. For example, they note that the Hubble Space Telescope was found to have a total footprint of 555,000 metric tons and the recently published James Webb Telescope was calculated to have a 300,000 metric tons footprint. The team then expanded their efforts to make estimates, using data from their work, regarding the total amount of carbon released by the worldwide astronomy community.

The researchers note that carbon release As part of astronomy research, the series is run and may include the following:

  • building facilities
  • Rocket burn fuel
  • Coal fired emissions Power plants It is used to produce electricity to power supercomputers used to process data
  • Emissions from aircraft as researchers travel to meetings around the world

The researchers note that due to the unique nature of the work that the astronomy community does, it is important that they set themselves a good example for planetary caretakers. They suggest that the astronomy community needs to slow down the planning and construction phases to allow carbon footprint counts to be included. They also suggest taking steps to reduce their footprint.

Amazon says its carbon footprint grew by 19% last year

more information:
Jürgen Knodelsder et al, Estimating the carbon footprint of astronomical research infrastructures, natural astronomy (2022). DOI: 10.1038 / s41550-022-01612-3

Andrew Ross Wilson, Estimating the Carbon Dioxide Density in the Space Sector, natural astronomy (2022). DOI: 10.1038 / s41550-022-01639-6

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