Flying is probably the worst thing you can do for the environment. I know that. But I still do it.. For people who love to travel and dream of seeing the world, not flying is either inevitable or really really expensive (especially if you're a student!). But to be honest, I only just realised about a year ago how bad flying actually is for the environment and why it's a huge contributor to climate change.
So how does flying contribute to climate change? To cut it short, aircraft engines emit heat, noise, particulates and nasty gases into the atmosphere (thanks Wikipedia). But while digging deeper into the subject, this is what I found:
- The aviation industry relies fully on the fossil fuel industry. The industry burns through 5 million (!) barrels of oil every single day (yikes), which results in 2,5% of total carbon emissions worldwide (yes, that's a lot).
- Why are flights so cheap and trains so expensive? A convention in 1944 decided that international flights would be free of jet fuel taxes and VAT, while taxes for other kinds of transportation, such as cars and trains, have skyrocketed since then. Makes no sense and completely outdated if you ask me..
- Lots of people talk about the carbon emissions, but let's not forget about other aviation emissions that have a warming effect, such as nitrogen oxides (NOx), water vapor, particulates, contrails (the trail a plane leaves behind in the sky) and cirrus (thin, wispy strands of cloud) changes. All of the above combined contribute to global warming with the same 2,5% as the carbon emissions, putting the overall aviation contribution to about 5%.
- According to Stefan Gössling, a professor at Sweden's Lund and Linnaeus universities and co-editor of the book Climate Change and Aviation: Issues, Challenges and Solutions, "On an individual level, there is no other human activity that emits as much over such a short period of time as aviation, because it is so energy-intensive".
Well, this is depressing, isn't it? For most of us, flying has become a normal part of our lives, so it really sucks realising how bad it is for the environment. From now on, if you fly, try to be aware of its impact and consider alternative transportation methods and/or carbon offsetting.
What is carbon offsetting?
According to Google, carbon offsetting is "the counteracting of carbon dioxide emissions with an equivalent reduction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere". It's really easy to calculate how much carbon your flight has emitted and how much you would need to pay to help reduce the same amount of carbon - just click here to calculate it all. After the calculation, you decide which carbon offsetting project you want to support (which you can also find on myclimate). I decided I wanted to support something in Madagascar, after being there for two months. The Stand for Trees website has lots of projects and it's where I found the Makira natural park project in Madagascar. By supporting this cause, I will help prevent over 30 million tonnes of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere over the next 30 years & that makes me feel a tiny tiny bit better. So, I promise to always offset my flights from now on!
Carbon offsetting is great, but the best thing to do is to avoid flying altogether. Try to take the train or even the car! It's all WAY better than flying and you get the nice views along the way for free! A lot of the time, flying is hard to avoid, but if you're going somewhere that's accessible by train or car, consider it.
Personally, I think this is probably the hardest thing to avoid and so conflicting, because I'm so passionate about traveling and seeing everything the world has to offer. But at least I'm more aware of the environmental impact and I'll do everything I can to offset those nasty emissions and look for realistic transportation alternatives. Will you join me?
From the desert with love,