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Is Flying the problem?

Climate claims myth-busted: Are any airlines really ‘green’?  Holly Tuppen re-examines the aviation industry’s colossal carbon footprint – and who’s doing what about it  23 March 2021

Aviation is the Achilles Heel of Travel & Tourism
Airlines emit 80% of the travel and tourism sector's greenhouse gasses and air travel is growing at 5% per year. As other industries reduce their carbon emissions aviation will account for ever-larger shares of global emissions. more

EarthChangers: Time for Effective Action to Remove Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Aviation

There is no guilt-free way to fly.

So what can you do?

Fly less - take the train if you can, don't fly if you could make the journey by road or rail
If you must fly:

  1. Fly direct, point to point - taking off burns a lot of fuel.
  2. Fly on budget airlines or charters - they carry more people so that the emissions per passenger are lower.
  3. If you fly long haul try to make the most of it and stay longer
  4. Fly economic class - the per seat weight is less and you will take up less space on the aircraft
  5. Fly with only a small amount of luggage, it burns fuel too.
  6. Stay for longer in the destination to get more experience value form the carbon emitted.


David Suzuki Foundation advice on air travel

Flight shaming
Flight shame or flygskam is an anti-flying social movement, with the aim of reducing the environmental impact of aviation. It started in 2018 in Sweden and gained traction the following year throughout northern Europe. Flygskam is a Swedish word that literally means “flight shame”. The movement discourages people from flying to lower carbon emissions to thwart climate change. More of the origins and development of the movement here.

STAY GROUNDED is a people-powered, science-based, and action-oriented network for more than 160 member initiatives around the world. The network fosters mutual support and exchange of experiences, and campaigns for a reduction of aviation and its negative impacts, as well as against problematic climate strategies like offsetting emissions and biofuels." more



This movement sees tourism and aviation as a combined problem and they are radically opposed to aviation. Degrowth of aviation was published in December 2019 with funding from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Carbon Offsetting

This has been very popular as a way of addressing carbon emissions, particularly from aircraft. It is cheap and enables the aviation industry to continue with business as usual. There are similarities between buying offsets and buying medieval pardons. This video will amuse you

It is good to plant trees and fund clean cookstoves. But doing this does not cancel out your emissions. The urgent need is to reduce emissions, there is no guilt-free way to fly. Off-sets are a "dangerous distraction".  As George Monbiot has said: “Buying and selling carbon offsets is like pushing the food around on your plate to create the impression that you have eaten it.” This is mitigation deterrence. more

"If offsetting is deemed to have equivalence with mitigation, the incentive to move to lower-carbon technologies, behaviours and practices is reduced accordingly."  Read Professor Kevin Anderson on the inconvenient truth of carbon offsets

There are many reasons why offsetting is undesirable – as UNEP points out they are not a get out of jail free card

  • It creates no incentive to increase fuel efficiency. Offsetting is a quick ineffective “fix” which reduces the incentive for innovation.
  • A 2017 study of offsets, commissioned by the European Commission, found that 85 per cent of offset projects under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) had failed to reduce emissions. This clearly shows that even the very best schemes don’t work. From 2021 the EU will stop allowing offsets to be counted towards emissions reductions targets.
  • Planting trees is a good thing – but they cannot absorb carbon fast enough to offset your emissions, we need to cut emissions now and carbon storage in trees is temporary, they will be cut and be burnt or decompose.
  • Many offset schemes may have been implemented anyway, there is no additionality

There is more on off-setting here 

Choosing how to travel
BBC Should you fly, drive or take the train?

Consider travelling by rail
The Man in Seat Sixty-One . . .


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