A Flying shame?
From the Editors of E –
The Environmental Magazine
EarthTalk: What is so-called “Flying Shame” and what’s the climate
Bridget J., New York, NY
shame” is one of those memic terms that has sprung up
recently to describe guilting people out of taking airplane trips given the
massive carbon footprint of air travel. Some call it “The Greta Effect” in a
nod to Swedish teen environmental activist Greta Thunberg, who swore off air travel
given its disproportionate drag on her efforts to slash her own carbon
course, Thunberg isn’t alone. In fact, the original concept of flying shame (“Flygskam”) actually started in Sweden, where “flying is
becoming the new tobacco” in the words of Andy Rowell of the non-profit Oil
Change International (OCI). A recent survey by the World Wildlife Fund found
that 23 percent of Swedes have abstained from air travel in the past year to
reduce their carbon footprints—a jump of six percentage points from a year ago.
Meanwhile, 18 percent of respondents opted to travel by train instead of
airplane over the course of the year.
the Swedes aren’t the only ones cutting back on flying. Other Europeans are
following suit, which makes sense given the excellent rail and ferry systems transecting Europe as practical alternatives to
flying. The concept has been slower to catch on in the U.S. given greater
distances and limited passenger rail options.
air travel is growing by leaps and bounds overall worldwide. “The problem is
that, as the science demands we radically reduce carbon emissions, the number
of passenger aircraft is set to double by 2035,” worries OCI’s Rowell.
Meanwhile, each and every day the aviation industry
consumes five million barrels of oil. In 2017 alone, the backs of airplanes
emitted 859 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, burning jet fuel contributes
roughly 2.5 percent of total carbon emissions worldwide. Analysts think this
proportion could rise to 22 percent by 2050 as other sectors clean up their
there are no truly green, practical alternatives to
kerosene-based jet fuel on the horizon. “Aircraft are becoming more
fuel-efficient, but not quickly enough to offset the huge demand in
growth,” reports The Conversation. “Electric planes remain decades away,
weighed down by batteries that can’t deliver nearly as much power per kilo as
what’s to be done? Swear off flying, that’s what. Flight Free USA is a
grassroots campaign trying to get at least 100,000 Americans to commit to not
flying at all during the calendar year 2020 in order to send a “clear signal to
industry and politicians—and also to each other—that there are many who are
willing to change their lifestyles to protect the climate.”
slice of the apple is called A Free Ride, an idea which assigns an escalating
flight tax depending on how many flights you take per year. One flight per year
would be free of tax, while 14 flights a year would cost a pretty penny in
taxes, with the proceeds going to offsetting the jet fuel with green energy
Change International, priceofoil.org;
“Direct carbon dioxide emissions from civil aircraft,” eprints.soton.ac.uk/368576;
“It’s time to wake up to the devastating impact flying has on the environment,”
Flight Free USA, flightfreeusa.org; A
Free Ride, afreeride.org.
produced by Roddy Scheer & Doug Moss for the 501(c)3 nonprofit EarthTalk. See more at https://emagazine.com. To donate, visit https://earthtalk.org. Send questions to: email@example.com.