Friederike Otto, deputy director of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford, studies the links between global warming and catastrophic, extreme climate events like heat waves and crop-killing droughts.
As she contributes new findings to the World Weather Attribution program, Otto says the urgency of immediate climate action becomes ever more apparent. Recently, the WWA concluded that last summer's fierce European heatwave and deadly fires were made much more likely by the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
All this has prompted her to think about her own role in emitting heat-trapping pollution.
Friederike Otto is well aware that running large supercomputers for complex climate modeling is energy intensive.
"Compared to the average person, my carbon footprint is absolutely awful but it is all through air travel," she told DW. "On the other hand, working at Oxford, my climate footprint in my daily work life is small. I do not own a car and never did, so my daily commute, school run and shopping is all on bike or foot."
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Still, Otto is frustrated by some of the challenges she can't address alone, including her house. It is relatively new and built according to British emission standards, which are poor, she said, even though we know how to build carbon-neutral homes.Going to conferences in exotic, and usually warm, places, almost always on the government's dime has long been an acknowledged perk of being a scientist. Certainly they are all smart enough and driven enough to develop less energy intensive alternatives, such as teleconferencing that could get the communication job. They just don't want to. No sight seeing, wining, dining, fucking there.
Like other scientists, she said the issue of traveling to conferences is vexing. Flying over long distances, multiple times each year, to attend meetings is part of the job for thousands in her field. Such exchanges are important in order to make scientific advances. But more could be done to reduce travel, including improving video conferencing technologies for larger gatherings, says Otto.
Either that, or she really doesn't believe global warming is such a serious problem that she needs to take personal steps to ameliorate it.