Super Heroes Are Bad For The Environment.

How did we get to the point where we have alleged scientists spending time on the carbon footprint of fictional superheroes?

NEW ORLEANS — At first glance, Miles Traer seems like any other scientist at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union. He wears an oversize identification badge on a lanyard around his neck and can discuss at length the role of water in planetary landscape transformation.

But this Stanford University geologist has an alter ego. Like a real-life Captain Planet (minus the blue skin, plus a deep knowledge of data science), he beats back the forces of environmental destruction and holds the super-powerful to account.

Traer and two colleagues have calculated the carbon footprint for nine heroes from the comic book canon — and realized that Earth might be better off if they stopped trying to save it.

The results are enough to make several people wince as they walk past Traer’s presentation in AGU’s cavernous poster hall. According to Traer’s research, most superheroes would use up hundreds of times more fossil fuels than the average American.

Barbara Gordon, the computer wizard also known as Oracle, is by far the worst offender: Even if her servers ran on a combination of clean energy sources — nuclear, hydroelectric, solar, wind and geothermal — running them would still release more than 1.3 billion pounds of carbon dioxide per year.

But Gordon’s DC Comics associates are hardly better. To run at the speed of light, the Flash would need to consume 59,863,610,416 calories per second — the rough equivalent of a 12-foot tall hamburger every week. That adds up to nearly 90 million pounds of carbon dioxide per year. Meanwhile, flying alone would require Batman to burn the fossil fuel equivalent of 344 plane rides from New York to San Francisco.

“Plus Batman drives around a car that literally shoots fire out the back,” Traer says. “That has to be terrible for the environment.”

Sim Jones, a meteorologist for Cherokee Nation Strategic Programs who has wandered over from the atmospheric science section of the poster hall, nods his agreement: “And the Batmobile is definitely not a hybrid.”

That makes Traer chuckle.

Traer even made a cute little poster:

(click for llarger version that will open in a new tab / window)

Traer goes onto to say:

“If I calculate my own carbon footprint, that’s a bummer,” Traer says. “But if I calculate it for Batman, things get interesting.”

Of course it’s a “bummer.” Because while people like Traer are wasting time, resources and even energy to look at the carbon footprint of fictional characters, they are dismissing their own carbon footprint. It’s a “bummer” to look at your footprint because you might have to look at all of the increased carbon footprint you made by flying back and forth to conferences

(We also question why Traer doesn’t bring up Wonder Woman’s “invisible plane, “which “propels itself by harnessing gravitation particles. It is in this fashion also that it shields its passengers from the forces of sudden acceleration.”)

Guess having a fictional super hero that doesn’t meet the premise that Traar is building upon must be ignored.

That’s okay. As he took a jet back to his state, hopped in his gasoline car, and drove to his home being heated by oil or gas, we know he feels superior because he isn’t as bad for the environment as a “super hero.”

He does get to be in the “Hypocrite Hall of Shame” though.

There’s always that.

(h/t to William Teach at The Pirate’s Cove and to “A View from the Beach.”)

Comments are closed.