Between diplomats, delegates, aides, activists, journalists, NGOs, and even high school students, over 50,000 people will in attendance for the Paris climate summit that began on Monday. With attendees from 195 countries, the talks will hopefully lead to the establishment of an international agreement for how best to combat the threat of climate change.
But bringing that many people together from all corners of the globe comes at a hefty cost. As Wired Magazine points out, the CO2 emissions from travel alone will be enormous.
When taking into account all of the far-reaching cities from which attendees are travelling, the average distance per traveler is roughly 9,000 miles. Most of those journeys will be taken by airplane, which means when making a conservative calculation, 27 million gallons of jet fuel will be used to ferry individuals to and from Paris.
"When burned, every one of those 27 million gallons of jet fuel releases about 21 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Added up, all those planes flying to the Paris climate talks will release about 575 million pounds of CO2," Nick Stockton writes for Wired.
That may be a fraction of the carbon emissions released annually – which roughly equals 80 quadrillion pounds – but it’s still hard to overlook the irony, especially given that the talks may, in fact, accomplish very little.
Any deal reached would undoubtedly rely on the cooperation of the United States, one of world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases. But with a large number of US Congressional lawmakers still refusing to even acknowledge the existence of man-made climate change, any agreement will likely see pushback in the Republican-led Senate.
While Obama has pledged to use an executive order which could circumvent Congress, some Senators are skeptical of that plan.
"Should the negotiations produce a more substantive outcome as European delegates announced, then there is no way around the Senate," Republican Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma told the Washington Post.
"I would urge caution in considering any diplomatic promises that may suggest otherwise as the president is once again attempting to make international promises he cannot deliver."
Others have expressed concern that any agreement would be difficult to implement. Without real penalties for breaching the accord, countries would have little incentive to actually follow along.
"What does legally binding mean in an agreement that is not going to have financial penalties for non-compliance?" Paul Bledsoe, a former climate policy aide in the Clinton White House, told the Post. "In the World Trade Organization, it is hard enough – and that does have penalties."
In light of these facts, maybe a global, 50,000-person conference call would have been more appropriate.