Are online conferences helping us save the planet?

By Erik Korsvik Østergaard, 11. January 2022.

“We find that transitioning from in-person to virtual conferencing can substantially reduce the carbon footprint by 94% and energy use by 90%. For the sake of maintaining more than 50% of in-person participation, carefully selected hubs for hybrid conferences have the potential to slash carbon footprint and energy use by two-thirds.”  


“Furthermore, switching the dietary type of future conferences to plant-based diets and improving energy efficiencies of the information and communication technology sector can further reduce the carbon footprint of virtual conferences.” 

This Cornell-led study in the Dec. 16 issue of Nature Communications clearly documents that virtual conferences are good for the planet. During the COVID-19 pandemic we have learned to have online meetings, working online, collaborating online, and attending online conferences. And it has a positive impact on the climate, as the study documents. They have looked at several aspects, including travel and food, and also compared it to the cost and impact of having virtual conferences.  

It had some interesting reactions on Reddit, focusing partly on the CO2-savings from online meetings and Work From Home, and partly on the lack of networking and face-to-face interactions that are a substantial element in the conferences. People need those!

Me too! I miss a good conference! And the network!

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