How do we reduce the huge environmental impacts that come with flying?

  • I do everything I can in my personal life to reduce my footprint and the emissions associated with my everyday choices. When I step foot on a plane though, it results in immense direct emissions. With more of the world reaching a wealth level that will make plane travel a viable option, what can we do to reduce the huge negative impact that it currently causes. Air travel accounts for ~2.5% of global carbon dioxide emissions, according to this article.

    Many people are required to fly for work. If I want to see more of the world (which arguably has value), I can't avoid it. Not flying seem unrealistic for many.

    Electric airplanes look like one option - does anybody here know how viable they might be in the shorter term? Waiting 15 years for them seems like too long.

  • I'm glad this thread was created cause this is an ethical dilemma I have with myself and would love to see what other people have to say! I love to travel, but every time I step on a plane, I can't help to acknowledge the CO emissions being created.
    For right now, I think it's impossible to eco-fly. I think we can at least be conscious when booking flights and make small moves to reduce our footprint however we can. (ie. no frills airlines unbundle fares, allowing passengers the choice of what to purchase and what to leave out. Bring your own snacks/water)
    This article lists "eco friendly" airlines (which I think is a bit of a stretch) but at least they are environmentally conscious and reducing when possible. Opting for airlines that at least show concern for their impact on the environment isn't much but it's a good start.

  • This is a big point of contention I have as well. @briparks I agree, the concept of "eco-friendly" airlines is a total misnomer. Realistically, what might be required is for consumers to collectively put pressure on international aviation administrations and more importantly - to put a bigger price on the carbon associated with each flight ticket. Pricing in externalities can work!

  • There may be a future where zero-emissions aircraft are a reality. This might take the form of electric-drive aircraft, or it might be through conventional aircraft fueled by avgas created by capturing carbon from the atmosphere.

    But aviation will probably be one of the most expensive sectors to decarbonize, just because of the reality of high power demand in a mobile system that transports both fuel and power plant. I'm not usually a fan of carbon offsets, but it probably does make sense for aviation as a sector. If avoiding one tonne of aviation emissions costs (hypothetically) $500, but avoiding one tonne of emissions elsewhere costs $50, then it would make a lot of sense to direct money toward the more effective solution.

    I think the most important thing we should do as groups (and individually) is rally for appropriate taxes (ie. carbon tax) to be built into the cost of flying. This will slightly discourage some people from flying, and the remainder who still choose to fly can help fund carbon-reduction projects in other sectors.

    That said, there does seem to be a place for #flyshame. Those of us who have the choice to fly should seriously consider whether a slower alternative (train, bus, ship) might be more responsible.

  • @nicwaller I would happily pay more for plane tickets if I knew that the excess cost was going towards R&D in electrification or at least carbon reduction initiatives from the aviation sector