Airlines Feeling Impact of “Flight Shame”

July 10, 2019

We’re not in trouble because people fly – we’re in trouble because we’ve been burning coal and oil for 200 years in increasing amounts.
Flying is a small, but fast growing, part of the problem.

Significant that Airlines starting to feel climate pressure.
Look for disruptive alternatives in the coming decade.

Associated Press:

 School’s out for summer and Swedish lawyer Pia Bjorstrand, her husband and their two sons are shouldering backpacks, ready to board the first of many trains on a whistle-stop vacation around northern Europe.

The family is part of a small but growing movement in Europe and North America that’s shunning air travel because it produces high levels of greenhouse gas emissions. While experts say fighting climate change will require bigger and bolder actions by governments around the world, some people are doing what they can to help, including changing long-held travel habits.

The trend is most prominent in Sweden, where the likes of teen climate activist Greta Thunberghave challenged travelers to confront the huge carbon cost of flying.

“Even I, who was climate aware 10 years ago, didn’t think about flying in the way that I think now,” said Bjorstrand as she waits on the platform of Nykoping station in eastern Sweden. “I didn’t know that the effect of flying was so big. So we flew everywhere.”

Airlines argue that flying accounts for just 2% of man-made greenhouse gas emissions and increasingly efficient planes now use about the same amount of fuel per passenger as a half-full car. Yet the ease and falling cost of air travel is enabling more people to fly more often, meaning airline emissions are soaring even as other sources decline.

In 2013, commercial carriers emitted 710 million tons of carbon dioxide. This year, industry group IATA predicts airlines’ emissions of CO2 will reach 927 million tons, more than an industrial country like Germany. The figures don’t include other factors that scientists say increase the greenhouse effect from flying.

Planes fare particularly poorly compared with rail travel, especially in countries where trains can draw on a plentiful supply of renewable energy, like Sweden.

Bjorstrand’s train journey from Nykoping to the Danish capital Copenhagen weighs in at 2.4 kilograms (5.3 pounds) of CO2 per person, according to an online calculator created by the Germany-based Institute for Energy and Environmental Studies consultancy. That compares with over 118 kilograms (260 pounds) of CO2 for a one-way flight.

Such amounts quickly take a big chunk out of the annual carbon budget of 2,000 kilograms per person that scientists say would be sustainable.

The rail journey is almost twice as long by train — 5 ½ hours compared with three hours of flying and transit — but that’s fine with the family. There’ll be plenty of time for Oscar, 9, to pore over his comic books and Gabriel, 11, to read up on World War II history or just watch the lush green forests and lakes of southern Sweden glide by.

Last year, Sweden’s forests literally went up in smoke as the country experienced a heat wave that led to wildfires unprecedented in its modern history, driving home the possible consequences of global warming for this rich Nordic nation.

It was around that time that Thunberg, then a 15-year-old student in Stockholm, began staging weekly protests outside parliament that inspired similar demonstrations by teens and young adults elsewhere. Thunberg has become a celebrity among environmentalists for her heartfelt speeches, savvy use of social media and willingness to take long train journeys to attend events in Rome, Vienna or London.

In Sweden, this stance against air travel has spawned the term “flygskam,” or “flight shame.”v

12 Responses to “Airlines Feeling Impact of “Flight Shame””

  1. rsmurf Says:

    I stopped flying because of the illegal searches, but I got a 2 fer!

  2. Earl Mardle Says:

    Its not just the flights, it all the other CO2 we produce as tourists, rubbernecking and gawking at stuff, driving to and from events and “destinations”, the energy we consume at fun parks and rides and generated by the spectacles put on for us.

    NZ hosts more tourists than it has residents, and every one of them flies at least 3 hours to get here, the ones from the US and China 12-13 hours, then rent cars or hop in buses and drive up and down the land “looking”.

    On top of that, the ultra-long flights from Dallas to Auckland or Perth to London, Auckland-Dubai etc use more fuel than the 2 or 3 hops that they used to do for the same journey.

    • Keith Omelvena Says:

      You forgot the pile of excrement they leave at freedom camping sites and of course, the considerable bio security risk.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      On top of that, the ultra-long flights from Dallas to Auckland or Perth to London, Auckland-Dubai etc use more fuel than the 2 or 3 hops that they used to do for the same journey.

      That doesn’t seem right. A disproportionate amount of fuel use happens in takeoffs and landings.

      Of course, there may be a way to finesse the flying weight by only loading as much fuel as you need for the next leg, so you avoid carrying the weight of fuel needed for the whole distance.

  3. dumboldguy Says:

    Flying is a small part of the problem?

    Sorry, because it is so unnecessary and IS “fast growing”, it is a BIG part of the futiure problem—-burning up 5% of the carbon budget by 2050 on airplane flights is insane.

    Earl M nails it when he talks about all the other “tourist CO2” that we produce. I have a number of friends my age who are upset with me because I will NOT listen to their babbling about or look at the pictures of their latest cruise or overseas flights. Ten day cruises through the Panama Canal, two-week cruises along the coast of Norway, cruising on the dirty rivers of Europe—-some of them need walkers or wheel chairs to get around. The same goes for younger families who take their 6 and 8 year-olds on “trips of a lifetime”. Mankind’s self-absorption and hubris is beyond belief.

    As far as the slick KLM ad, I have three words—-bullshit, bullshit, bullshit! They are to be commended for getting out in front on the issue and thereby getting some good PR, but if anyone thinks the airline industry really wants people to stop flying, they are terminally delusional. What’s next? The car manufacturers saying “don’t buy a car unless it’s electric”? Farmers saying “Don’t eat our food unless we get greener in our practices”?

  4. It doesn’t harm business to discuss the impact of flying on climate change. It shows the companies to be concerned about it. A little window dressing might help. I have seen in Holland a major pollutor who put 2 windmills in front of the factory. It looks good in advertisment. There are probably subsisdies and tax reduction to keep the price down for this activities.

  5. redskylite Says:

    The KLM ad reminds me of a local petroleum/diesel filling station chain promoting E.V’s and clean energy, many of the comments to their promotional efforts are very derisory, just like the comments you see on climate change reports.

    I think the KLM ad is commendable and will at least draw attention and make concerned people think twice, before taking that flight.

    I recently saw a documentary on rich overseas folk, who are buying and building luxury lakeside mansions around the Queenstown area, in the South Island of N.Z, they are so rich it seems they can buy a N.Z passport very quickly and fly in and out at will in personnel jets, so it is a bit harsh to criticize the economy class mass of tourists, enjoying a couple of weeks break from the monotony of working life.

    KLM appear to be trying to cut down their footprint – using biofuels etc and Dutch airports are among the leaders in cutting out fossil fuels to run.

    “From 2022, the plant will produce 100,000 tonnes a year, of which KLM will purchase 75,000 tonnes. This will reduce our CO2 emissions by 200,000 tonnes a year, which is equal to the emissions released by 1,000 KLM flights between Amsterdam and Rio de Janeiro,”

    • redskylite Says:

      The Super Rich of Silicon Valley Have a Doomsday Escape Plan

      “Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal, ignited an uproar when he was granted citizenship after spending just 12 days in the country, prompting allegations that New Zealand’s passport was for sale. Thiel, 50, owns a $13.8 million home on 477 acres (193 hectares) in the lakeside town of Wanaka, with views of snow-capped mountains, and purchased another property in Queenstown, outfitted with a safe room.

      “If you’re the sort of person that says ‘I’m going to have an alternative plan when Armageddon strikes,’ then you would pick the farthest location and the safest environment — and that equals New Zealand if you Google it,”

  6. redskylite Says:

    Eindhoven Airport is one of four Dutch airports that has been running on renewable energy since the beginning of last year.

    It, along with Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport, Rotterdam The Hague Airport, and Lelystad Airport, is part of the Royal Schipol Group. Annually, these four airports use the same amount of electricity as 60,000 households. This is equivalent to a town the size of Delft.

    From 1 January 2018, these four airports have run exclusively on renewable energy produced in the Netherlands. “We wanted nothing but sustainable power generated in the Netherlands,” Jos Nijhuis, President and CEO of Royal Schiphol Group, said when the company released the statement concerning this switch. “After all, one thing is certain: aviation can and must be made more sustainable.”

  7. grahamtoo Says:

    Is it a lack of creativity and intelligence that prevents people from conducting business and holidaying without flying; a lack of ethicallity; or perhaps just good old-fashioned selfishness? There are so many human weaknesses to choose from and so little likelihood that more than a little change will happen.

    Bring on the flight shaming, make it a loud part of the public discourse. Anyone who flies should be held to account – expected to explain and justify their actions. This is our collective nest they are shitting in.

    Of course, it is not just the flying. It is every way we participate in an economy which relies on hydrocarbons for 75% of its energy. Everything we buy, everything we sell, every dollar we earn and every peso we spend contributes to climate change and funds the 6th great extinction. So much more economic activity accompanies travel than staying at home.


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