A 28-hour train ride from Oslo to the EMS2023
Rasmus Benestad from the Norwegian Meteorological Institute in Oslo has been a convenor of the EMS Sessions on synoptic climatology for as long as I can think back: that is actually 2006 at the meeting in Ljublana. Rasmus has been an advocate for personal action on climate mitigation, and has tirelessly communicated and tried new roads to inform people and then act on it. He gave many presentations in the communication session over the years.
This year, he took the challenge to come by train from Oslo to Bratislava; it took him 28 hours. I interviewed him on his experience, his motivitation, ….
Martina Junge, EMS: Hi Rasmus, you travelled 28 hours by train from Oslo to Bratislava (and vice versa) to attend the EMS Annual Meeting.How often and where did you have to change and did you get any sleep?
Rasmus Benestad: I changed train in Gothenburg and Lund before I caught a sleeper train to Hamburg. From Hamburg, I rode on the same train all the way to Bratislava (on route to Budapest). I managed to sleep quite well on the way to Bratislava, but not so well on the return journey where the night train from Hamburg to Copenhagen didn’t offer sleeping compartments. By the way, two of my colleagues, Ketil and Reidun, also travelled the same distance by train.
EMS: Wow, 3 people from NMI did do this train ride. That’s impressive. So I gather you and your colleagues didn’t have any issues with your employer about the duration of your travel, right? What about costs? – often the train trips are still more expensive than booking a return flight – did you check how this related in your case?
RB: No. The Norwegian Meteorological Institute encourages us to travel more by train, even if it takes longer time. To lower our carbon footprint. But travelling by train is not a waste of time – during my journey to Bratislava I managed to solve a problem that I originally thought would take a long time, but I got inspired by looking at the landscape passing by and came across a good solution.
EMS: Have you calculated the amount of CO2 emissions avoided by going by train instead of taking a flight? And did you (or your employing institution) still compensate for the emissions incurred through the train journey?
RB: No, because I think a focus on the carbon footprint often is a diversion. What really matters is the amount of coal, oil and gas extracted from the earth and used as fuel, which is a disruption of the carbon cycle. Hence, the most efficient strategy, I believe, is to replace the board rooms of oil companies and bolster the negotiators at the climate summits.
EMS: The EMS is discussing a pledge to net zero; this will certainly entail “guidelines” on how to travel to our meetings; some people would think 28hours on the train is simply too much: what would you feel is a reasonable time that would justify the train ride over a flight? Do you think “awards” testifying the emissions-reduced travel would help?
EMS: Yes, as EMS we’ve been discussing about the choosing a place of the meeting central in Europe may times; but this is somewhat in conflict with the EMS moving around Europe to all the places where the EMS Members are from; in fact, the EMS Member Societies are inviting the EMS to hold the meetings in their country, so enable larger parts of their communities to participate in the event. The conclusion so far was always, that we try to keep this approach that means also going to the “fringes”, but we take care that the towns are located central in the respective country, a hub for all means of transport. The discussion continues ….
Impressions from Rasmus’ travel
Was the reduction of travel-related emissions your only motivation to choose this means?
RB: No. I also met and had lunch with a colleague in Gothenburg on the way back. Travelling by train is also a bit nostalgic for me, as I travelled by Interrail in the 1990s.
EMS: Maybe this should actually have been the first question: did you enjoy your travel? And how did you spend your long hours on the train.
RB: Sort of. It was interesting. I worked most of the way. Also did some reading.
I met some EMS colleagues on the return trip via Austria and had a nice chat.
EMS: Any recommendations or ideas for EMS to implement?
RB: It would be nice to coordinate travelling with colleagues for some of the busiest stretches – for instance sharing a compartment where we can have some discussions. It would be cool if it would be possible to organising something a #climatetrainToEMS next year to Barcelona. And if some travel agent or train company would be willing to support EMS this way.
EMS: Thank you very much Rasmus for this interview. See you next year hopefully in Barcelona.