Air travel and academia : understanding the perceived benefits and barriers to reducing air miles

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Theses / Dissertations
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Master of Science
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Barclay, Nicholas H.M.

Air travel is hugely damaging to the environment. It is also a common practice in the academic community. This study contributes an understanding of what drives air travel amongst academics, utilising the COM-B framework and the behaviour change wheel to suggest a number of possibilities for air travel reduction strategies. A sample of 207 academics from the University of Canterbury, New Zealand were surveyed about a broad range of beliefs surrounding academic air travel, past air travel and future air travel. Exploratory factor analysis generated three reliable perceived benefit/barrier factors related to academic air travel: Networking and Conference Benefits, Perceived Low Carbon Impact, and Ease of Travel. Controlling for previous air travel and demographics: (1) stronger beliefs about the importance of networking and conferencing predicted more intended air travel in 2023, (2) stronger beliefs about importance of networking and conferences and scepticism about the impact of air travel on climate predicted less support for university-level carbon reduction policies, as well as willingness to adopt air travel reduction strategies. Additionally, early career, lower ranking academics, and academics who found travel less easy also reported lower willingness to adopt air travel reduction strategies. Implications for behaviour change strategies to reduce carbon emissions associated with academic air travel are presented.

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