Air travel is world’s fastest growing source of CO2. Between 1990 and 2000 the distance travelled in planes increased from 125 billion kilometres to 260 billion kilometres a year. At present, at any given moment 400,000 people will be flying over Europe in 3,500 planes, and three quarters of all this travel is leisure, rather than business, related. Worryingly, this level is only set to increase; air travel is predicted to grow three fold in the next 30 years.
A flight between London and Miami emits the equivalent of 12,000 car miles per passenger (and there are 350 passengers on a plane). Because planes emit their CO2 in the most sensitive part of the atmosphere, their impact is even greater. So although air travel currently only accounts for 5.5% of the UK’s climate change emissions, this is actually equivalent to 11% due to radiative forcing. It is predicted that by 2030, flying will be responsible for a third of the UK’s climate changing emissions.
Our cheap flight holidays are achieved as a result of fierce competition and due to the fact that aviation is subsidised. Only recently have taxes been introduced on aviation fuel and a large amount of EU and UK public money support traffic control and transport to airports.
The answer to these problems is to ask ourselves if we need to travel by plane, if we can holiday more locally, or use alternatives to travel such as videoconferencing. For ideas on holidaying in the UK visit www.visitbritain.com Some of the most spectacular train journeys are in the UK, for ideas visit www.seat61.com
The idea behind carbon offset is that CO2 emissions are offset by investment in tree planting or development of renewable energy technologies in the UK or abroad. This mostly means offsetting travel related CO2 emissions such as driving or flying. There is increasing concern as to whether offset is as effective as we would like to believe, or whether it simply alleviates our guilty conscience. Critics claim that trees are not as effective at absorbing CO2 as we think and that offset legitimises behaviour. So whist there is no harm in planting trees, it should not be relied upon as a justification for flying. Much better is to consider whether driving or flying needs to be done in the first place. For more information on carbon offset, visit www.carbonneutral.com or www.climatecare.org