Air travel

You thought cars were a problem?

  • Air travel is one of the most greenhouse-gas rich forms of transport in existence. This is one form of public transport which is definitely not a greener choice.
  • Greenhouse gases produced in the upper atmosphere can hang around longer (possibly hundreds of years longer!) and cause more damage than greenhouse gases released at ground level.
  • Air travel is surprisingly cheap, easily competing with rail fares. This has nothing to do with energy efficiency, and everything to do with subsidy – there is no fuel duty on aviation fuel!
  • A report by the World Development Movement report and the new economics foundation examines the economic arguments for the aviation industry and argues that growth in the aviation industry cannot be maintained if we are to make the cuts in UK emissions of between 80–90 per cent below 1990 levels.
  • Air travel is a major contributor to emissions of nitrogen oxides, a major source of greenhouse gases.
  • Even the water vapour emitted by aircraft exhausts is damaging. The upper atmosphere is naturally very dry. Both water vapour and the ice crystals it sometimes forms, visible as contrails, contribute to the greenhouse effect at this level.
  • More detailed information, and a chance to calculate the global warming effect from your own journeys, from Choose Climate.
  • GreenHouse Gas Online – up-to-date information from a greenhouse gas scientist.

But are there any alternatives?

  • In 1997, a group of delegates to the UN Climate Change conference chose to travel from Europe to Kyoto by train and boat instead of by air. Total travel time for the Climate Train was about 11 days; greenhouse gas emissions around one-eighth of what they would have been travelling by air.
  • Travelling around Europe by train or bus is pretty straightforward – and a whole different experience to the bland, teleport world of international airports. The Man in Seat Sixty-One has made it his mission to provide you with boat and train information, from the UK to Europe and beyond. Lots of practical tips and advice on finding cheap fares as well as links to timetables.
  • Why are you travelling? Letters, phone calls, emails, teleconferencing, imaginative holidays nearer to home – depending on what you’re needing to do, any of these might take the place of a long-haul flight.

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  1. Pingback: Could traveling by air ever be green?


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