At first glance, Miles Traer seems like any other scientist at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union. He wears an oversize identification badge on a lanyard around his neck and can discuss at length the role of water in planetary landscape transformation.
But this Stanford University geologist has an alter ego. Like a real-life Captain Planet (minus the blue skin, plus a deep knowledge of data science), he beats back the forces of environmental destruction and holds the super-powerful to account.
Traer and two colleagues have calculated the carbon footprint for nine heroes from the comic book canon — and realized that Earth might be better off if they stopped trying to save it.
The results are enough to make several people wince as they walk past Traer's presentation in AGU's cavernous poster hall. According to Traer's research, most superheroes would use up hundreds of times more fossil fuels than the average American.
Barbara Gordon, the computer wizard also known as Oracle, is by far the worst offender: Even if her servers ran on a combination of clean energy sources — nuclear, hydroelectric, solar, wind and geothermal — running them would still release more than 1.3 billion pounds of carbon dioxide per year.
Ah yes, the poster hall at AGU. Been there, done that. If you're lucky, they serve free beer.
But Gordon's DC Comics associates are hardly better. To run at the speed of light, the Flash would need to consume 59,863,610,416 calories per second — the rough equivalent of a 12-foot tall hamburger every week. That adds up to nearly 90 million pounds of carbon dioxide per year. Meanwhile, flying alone would require Batman to burn the fossil fuel equivalent of 344 plane rides from New York to San Francisco.
“Plus Batman drives around a car that literally shoots fire out the back,” Traer says. “That has to be terrible for the environment.”
Sim Jones, a meteorologist for Cherokee Nation Strategic Programs who has wandered over from the atmospheric science section of the poster hall, nods his agreement: “And the Batmobile is definitely not a hybrid.”
The superhero presentation is one of a series; further down the row of poster presentations, paleontologist Ryan Haupt (who also worked on Traer's project) is pointing out inaccuracies in “Jurassic Park” — for one thing, the movie is populated mostly with dinosaurs from the late Cretaceous, the period after the Jurassic ended 145 million years ago. Meanwhile, glacier expert Martin Truffer is examining the dubious physics of a “Game of Thrones"-style wall of ice.Not to mention dragons, raising people from the dead and ice zombies.
“If I calculate my own carbon footprint, that's a bummer,” Traer says. “But if I calculate it for Batman, things get interesting.”I wonder how many lbs of CO2 were produced by the jet that brought Traer from San Francisco to New Orleans for the AGU meeting and back? I'm sure he could save a lot of CO2 by walking.
To further make his point, Traer considers how his heroes might lessen their impact on the environment. By going vegetarian, the Flash could reduce his emissions from 90 million pounds of carbon dioxide to just 3 million. If Bruce Wayne stopped spending money on Batman gear, he could pay for carbon offsets for the entire population of downtown Chicago.
The implied message: If a masked vigilante with too much money and a shortage of good judgment can redeem himself, you can, too.
Related: Jodie Foster compares superhero movies to fracking (and she’s not a fan of either)
Linked at Flopping Aces in "The Week in Radical Leftism, 01/06/2018" Wombat-socho has "Rule 5 Sunday: Jenna Jameson" up for your viewing pleasure.