Should we be flying so much or not?

Should we be flying so much or not?

21st February 2024 0 By Biggsy
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Climate change. Should we all be flying less or not? It’s all very confusing!

I overheard some recent comments by friends/colleagues who are seemingly paying no attention to the “fly less” message and were loudly and proudly saying much to the contrary:

Just this year, I’ve flown around the world 2x and have been on 28 flights
“Travelling is my hobby” (with many recent European holidays + a trip to The Maldives)

Conscious or subconscious thoughts?

Is it simply a subconscious case of people thinking:

  1. Well if everybody else is going to travel then so am I
  2. I want to travel and nobody’s going to stop me
  3. Other people can reduce their carbon footprint if they like but not me
  4. I want to go to Antarctica so see the penguins before they disappear!” … which ironically increases the chances of them disappearing.

… or that actually consciously they really don’t care and want to see as much of the world as they can, while they can? Especially now we’ve moved on from COVID and the world has opened up again … for good hopefully.

close up photography of penguin on snow
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

How much CO₂ is attributed to flying anyway?

According to Our World in Data, aviation accounts for “just” 2.5% of global CO₂ emissions. Should we really worry about that when the built environment, according to We Forum, accounts for a much higher 39% of gross annual carbon emissions worldwide.

A part of me wants to travel more, a part of me wants to travel less, and a part of me thinks we’re only here for so long so do what the hell you like! It’s all very confusing right now though but it’s interesting how some people can be so confidently, openly up for travelling, which is at complete odds to what the climate doomsayers say we should be doing.

I wrote a carbon-based blog post back in 2016 which stated that a return flight to NYC from London releases 1.69 metric tonnes of CO₂e per passenger, which is the weight of 2 old style VW Beetles (800kg each). That feels like a lot!

Two VW beetles weigh as much as the CO2 produced per person flying from London to NYC and back!
Two VW beetles weigh as much as the CO2 produced per person flying from London to NYC and back!

Some individuals have massive CO₂ footprints

I’ve made many good friends at travel blogging events who travel the world for a living, encouraging others to do the same. They must have MASSIVE individual carbon footprints. But is that any different to a more traditional business person flying transatlantically from location to location for their job … or brands advertising for us to all go off on their holidays in the first place?

sunglasses a sun hat and an slr camera lying on a travel brochure
Photo by Татьяна Контеева on Pexels.com

Vegans contribute less to CO₂ though?!

But what if that travelling travel blogger is a vegan? According to Ethical Consumer going from a medium meat to a vegan diet saves about a tonne of CO₂e a year (60% of that return flight to NYC). Something we could all be helping with – even if it’s just cutting back on meat 1-2 days a week to start with.

tomatoes carrots and radish on the top of the table
Photo by picjumbo.com on Pexels.com

Having children creates lots of carbon!

And what if that same travel blogger doesn’t have any children? … and doesn’t intent to have any either? We need to keep the human population going but what about those people who have 3-4 children. Each extra child adds way more CO₂ to the planet than a regular flyer is ever going to do. According to The Conservation, the authors found that having one child adds 9,441 tonnes of carbon dioxide to the carbon legacy of each parent. This equates to more than five times their own lifetime carbon emissions.

children s team building on green grassland
Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

I’m flying less right now as it’s so much easier not to

And me? I have a small family, so for now we’ll be sticking to drives within a 100 mile radius of home, allowing for a halfway service station pitstop (Fleet Service Station being our particular favourite) + possibly a trip on the Eurostar if we manage to sort out the kids with some passports.

Anyway it’s all “food carbon for thought!”

Reading Time: 4 minutes

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