What is it about?

The COVID-19 pandemic saw people switching to online modes of interaction. Events were conducted virtually instead of in person. This is a good change, as virtual events are more environment friendly. But virtual events also have a small rate of carbon emissions. Comparing carbon emissions of virtual and physical events is thus a pressing need. Scientists in India explored this in detail and shared their key insights. Travel, food, rooms, venue, etc. were major carbon emission sources for physical events. Of these, travel alone is responsible for 73% of the emission. For virtual events, the main factors included the platform server, video streaming, and device usage. Virtual events may have a 98.6% lower carbon footprint than physical events.

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Why is it important?

Climate change is a global issue. Bringing down carbon emissions therefore needs to be a collective effort. Physical events produce at least 55 times more carbon than virtual events. In India, an average person produces 2.7 metric tonne carbon dioxide equivalent (MT CO2 Eq). The physical event produced 355.8 MT CO2 Eq. The virtual event produced far less carbon, only around 6.4 MT CO2 Eq. Policies around digital sobriety can reduce the carbon footprint of virtual events. It means buying the least powerful computers, buying them less often, and reducing overuse. KEY TAKEAWAY: Digital events are more environment friendly than physical events. Incentives and policies may help reduce the carbon footprint of virtual events.

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This page is a summary of: Carbon Emissions from Virtual and Physical Modes of Conference and Prospects for Carbon Neutrality: An Analysis From India, Air Soil and Water Research, January 2022, SAGE Publications, DOI: 10.1177/11786221221093298.
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