Reducing Your Carbon Footprint – Air Travel

December 1, 2008

The single most -expensive thing that most people will do commonly do it to fly.  The carbon per passenger mile for air travel (or air freight for that matter) is higher than any other means of transport, short of space travel.  Does this mean stop flying?  Not necessarily.  But those serious about ‘walking the walk’ and reducing their carbon footprint significantly would do well to consider this aspect of their lives.

Let’s consider this area as a complex of interlocking discernments and decisions.  First, of course, would be simply stopping to consider is this trip necessary.  There is not formula that can be offered for this determination.  It is an individual matter.  But even to stop a moment before planning a trip to consider, “Is this flight necessary” is a metaparadigm that most of us side step.

The second consideration is “why fly?”  Quite often there are other modes of transport available, such as bus or train, but these have long ago been rejected out of hand (once the ‘preference’ for air travel over ground transport has been made is becomes a seldom challenged paradigm).  The rationale might be that flying is faster.  In the climate of competition between airlines in a changing world, often it is actually cheaper to fly than to take the train.  This is where we must stop!

The cost of air tranport at present does not reflect the REAL cost, it only reflects the monetary costs.  “But isn’t that the ‘real cost’?” you ask.  No!  The real cost includes the cost to the ecosphere of the planet of the massive CO2 emissions per passenger mile for the flight.  For a brief period longer this ‘externalized cost’ will remain an impediment to our addressing the climate crisis full on; brief since even now the world is in the throes of recognizing the the carbon emissions of human activities must be priced into those activities or we are doomed to changing the planet in ways that we may not be able to cope with near term or long term.

Even if confronted with a more expensive, and longer train trip for several hundred kilometers or miles, we need to at least assert our will to question and interrupt our paradigms.  And the decision to choose the more costly or slower means of transport is a conscious decision to preserve the planet for our children, and for all life on Earth.

And when you must choose air travel, until the carbon-expense of flying is integrated into the price of a ticket, we must individually ‘ante up’ toward our personal commitment to ‘make a difference’, and purchase voluntary carbon offsets equal (or exceeding) the carbon impact of our journey.

For the Earth – (S)