Our 2022 emission estimates

For 2022, we estimated our emissions at 9.73 metric tonnes CO2 equivalent (mtCO2e). In this blog post, we put this number in historical context with previous assessments and reflect on what this assessment means for our sustainability journey. 

The climate crisis demands immediate action, in order to prevent every bit of warming we can. Organizations are big emitters, because they consume, spend, and grow — a lot. All of those economic activities are strongly coupled with emissions. We do our emission assessments because that information is key to taking informed action. Our previous assessments in 2019, 2020, and 2021 already influenced our equipment policy and event policy.

In 2022, we emitted an estimated 9.73 metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent (mtCO2e) to run Liberate Science and its projects. This is a 296% increase compared to 2021, which is considerable to say the least. Liberate Science’s emissions for 2022 per scope look like this:

  • Scope 1, direct emissions: 0kg
  • Scope 2, indirect emissions: 180kg (-65% year over year)
  • Scope 3, value chain emissions: 9,540kg (+344% year over year)
Scope Activity Type 2022 2021 2020 2019
Scope 1 Stationary combustion


0.00 0.00 0.00
  Mobile combustion 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
  Fugitive emissions from air-conditioning 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Scope 2 Purchased electricity - location based 0.00 0.07 0.00 0.00
  Purchased electricity - market based 0.08 0.23 1.00 0.00
  Purchased heat and steam 0.10 0.23 0.29 0.00
Scope 3 Purchased goods and services 9.13 2.43 3.15 1.63
  Waste generated in operations 0.42 0.34 0.27 0
  Business travel 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
  Employee commuting 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Total Emissions   9.73 3.29 4.70 1.63

Scope 2 emissions decreased as a result of fewer staff and cutting our office heating (gas based; circa -50% year over year). We cut our heating in large part due to the gas price volatility, but this also highlights how impactful behavioral change is on the local scale.

Scope 3 emissions primarily increased by a change in how we estimate our scope 3 emissions. We previously estimated scope 3 emissions by looking at our past year's transactions and selecting out what we could specifically estimate (e.g., server usage, equipment). For 2022, we additionally included all other transactions where we did not have specific emission factors (e.g., office supplies), instead doing a blanket estimate based on amount spent. This new method is more encompassing, but also may overestimate our emissions. To be precise: The total blanket estimate based on spend resulted in adding 8,804kg of CO2e to our assessment.

What next

We could have done this assessment earlier — the information is now little actionable for our 2023 emissions. In 2024, we will start creating emission budgets and estimating on an ongoing basis to see where we are over/under budget. We will share more on how we will realize this when we launch our open startup strategy.

We also need to reduce uncertainty in our emission estimates. Scope 2 estimates are certain because our energy provider gives us that information. Scope 3 emissions are more uncertain, because of the spend based estimate. Not only does spend not differentiate well (e.g., a digital service having the same emissions as food), it also is an indication that the information for that specific good/service is not readily available. When we buy a laptop, we can get concrete information from most suppliers. When we contract someone for their services, we cannot even get uncertain information if they do not assess themselves. Reducing that discrepancy is important to improve our estimates.

We will look into implementing policies that encourage, and in the long-term may even require, our service providers to provide us with their own emission assessments. This means that we will become more pro-active in engaging organizations to care about assessing their own emissions.

Emission assessments are regrettably almost nowhere to be seen in the open research landscape. If we really do care about the climate crisis in open research, it is high time that organizations start taking stock of their own impact. As a rule of thumb: The bigger your budget, the bigger your emissions are.

We keep setting a different example by estimating our emissions on an ongoing basis. With our emission budgets, we are going to actively plan towards 0 mtCO2e in 2030 — what this concretely entails we do not yet know, but we know this is the outcome that is necessary.

Our 2022 emission estimates
Liberate Science GmbH November 27, 2023
Burden of open research (s03e17)