Alison and I have been spending time looking at different areas of our lives where we can take personal action and help the planet. The recent IPCC Report on climate change was fairly overwhelming, so we wanted to check in and dive a little deeper on a few areas.
We’ve looked at a few areas of our lives so far, such as our food choices, energy choices, clothing choices, and even our internet use choices. This week I’m looking at how our travel choices impact the planet and changes we can make to reduce our impact.
The Problem with Air Travel
Impact of Air Travel
We’ve been discussing how various choices in our lives impact our carbon footprint, and emissons related to travel make up about 25% of our footprint globally. And this carbon, once created, remains in the atmosphere for surprisingly long periods of time.
“Carbon dioxide’s lifetime cannot be represented with a single value because the gas is not destroyed over time, but instead moves among different parts of the ocean–atmosphere–land system. Some of the excess carbon dioxide is absorbed quickly (for example, by the ocean surface), but some will remain in the atmosphere for thousands of years, due in part to the very slow process by which carbon is transferred to ocean sediments.“United States Environmental Protection Agency
Therefore, changes to habits in this area of our lives can add up to a big difference now and in the future!
This week I’m focusing on our travel choices with respect to air transportation as we all start to consider how, as we move out of the pandemic, we will travel in the hopefully near future!
Air Travel Background
“In 1960, 100 million passengers traveled by air, at the time a relatively expensive mode of transportation available only to a small fraction of the public. By 2017, the total annual world-wide passenger count was 4 billion.”Environmental and Energy Study Institute
With such a significant increase in air travel comes a corresponding increase in climate impact related to the flights. And it isn’t just pollutants released by the aircraft that impact the environment.
Interestingly, the water vapour released as part of the exhaust can, when the conditions are right, create “contrails” or “cirrostratus clouds of ice” that, according to Atmosfair, trap infrared light and may actually create a more significant warming effect than the CO2 from the exhaust. However, the carbon emissions, and their related impact, due to air travel are not insignificant.
“In 2013, global CO2 from commercial aviation was 710 million tons. In 2017, that number reached 860 million tons, a 21 percent increase in four years, and it climbed another 5 percent to 905 million tons in 2018. The United States, with the world’s largest commercial air traffic system, accounted for 202.5 million tons (23.5 percent) of the 2017 global CO2 total.“Environmental and Energy Study Institute
So what air travel choices can we make to reduce our carbon footprint?
Better Air Travel Choices
There are some simple and complex ways to reduce the climate impact of air travel as follows:
- Choose to travel using climate-conscious travel providers / operators that can connect travellers with responsible hotels and transportation, for example, and travel to climate-conscious destinations.
- Do your research and select airlines based on, for example: a) how fuel efficient their fleet is b) if they perform any offsetting c) if they ensure their flights are full d) if they attempt to limit stopovers, as these are some ways reduce the overall carbon impact of a flight.
- Look into offsetting your flights with a company such as Get Offset!
- Use your investment dollars to support innovations in technology that will allow for more climate-friendly air travel. Check out this article to learn about some exciting changes we may be seeing in the near future!
Do you plan to travel more as worldwide restrictions ease?