Peter Kalmus, writing in Yes magazine, said, “(I’m) a climate scientist who doesn’t fly. I try to avoid burning fossil fuels, because it’s clear that doing so causes real harm ... I don’t like harming others, so I don’t fly.”
Josh Kearns, a sustainable community development professional, reports “…most of us do a lot of long-haul air travel for fieldwork... What if the good we do advancing sustainability... gets negated by the CO2 we emit getting there and back again?” He concluded that emissions from short-stay trips negate any sustainability efforts.
The Guardian reported in April Ireland’s Ryanair has become the first non-coal company ranked among Europe’s top 10 emitters.
Kevin Anderson, a professor of energy and climate change at the University of Manchester, said: “Ryanair use new and efficient aircraft rammed to the rafters with passengers, illustrating how technology alone cannot reconcile aviation’s rocketing emissions with the Paris climate commitments… we need to drive down the demand for aviation ... .”
Flying accounts for 2 percent of emissions globally. I’ve suggested you need to cut your personal emissions 7 percent each year to meet the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reduction targets. This calculator might help visualize the problem and plan your cuts (https://coolclimate.berkeley.edu/calculator).
In January I used an analogy of a jigsaw puzzle. Perhaps reducing flying is a piece for a focused cut.
I posted on Facebook about a project to get 100,000 Swedes to take a no-fly pledge. A friend challenged me: they’ll just drive and there’s no data to show that’s better.
The European Environment Agency estimates grams of CO2 per passenger-kilometer: train-14; small car-42; large car-55; plane-285.
Jet biofuel requires land and (presently) fossil fertilizer and fuels. The chemistry to make jet fuel by carbon capture requires electricity.
Besides, if you are making fuel, wouldn’t you use it in the most efficient mode of transport?
Speaking to the BBC, Prof Iain Gray, director of aerospace at Cranfield University said, “Gas turbine engines will be here for decades. Most research (into electrification) is around very small aircraft.”
It appears that any mode of travel beats flying. Further, the choice to fly supports an industry that can’t be cleaned up in the next decade. Whereas, we have proven technology to make land-based transportation cleaner.
A way to compensate for flying is carbon offsets. You pay a little extra money for your flight and that goes to capture your emissions.
Assume seedlings are planted to offset your flight. Your emissions happen today; the trees don’t absorb them until they’ve grown, in 10 to 20 years.
The timing’s wrong; your pulse of emissions happens during the critical decade when we need CO2 levels to decline.
And, can you be sure the emissions you released will stay recaptured forever?
Assume carbon offsets work perfectly. Should we capture new emissions or focus on atmospheric drawdown? It seems that what’s required is fewer emissions and carbon sequestration.
It’s difficult because we feel entitled. In a thread about flying a young woman posted, “I’ll be damned if I’m going to spend my life trapped on one continent.”
Writing in the Guardian, Sonia Sodha noted that Britain has already reduced emissions from coal-fueled power plants, and now cuts are needed in consumer sectors.
She knows she should cut her emissions, much as she should save for retirement and lose a few pounds. But she’s not doing it. She said a carbon tax would hit the poor and not trouble the rich, then goes on to suggest rationing of flying might be fairest.
Don’t be like Sonia, vacation somewhere local or try a ‘staycation.’
Nils Peterson is executive director of the Moscow Affordable Housing Trust and was formerly chair of the city Planning and Zoning Commission.