Flying into the climate emergency

Kelly and I are fully gearing up for our impending trip to New Zealand. However, there is this small nagging inconvenience of truth that our trip will be dumping a whole lot of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.

Recently, we have both been making an effort to realign our activities with more planet-friendly behaviours such as decreasing our use of plastics and eating less meat (I am already a vegetarian). I would say that we are far from being champions of the climate emergency cause.. but we are working on growing our awareness and our response. So both the campervan road trip around the south island and particularly the flight over are problematic.

A recent article in the New York Times discussed new research from the International Council on Clean Transportation analysing data from 40 million flights around the world. They concluded that Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions from global air travel are increasing more than 1.5 times faster than previous United Nations predictions. 

Disturbingly, those predictions are a tripling of the current 900 million metric tones of carbon dioxide released by airline travel, by 2050.

This is despite investment in more fuel-efficient aircraft and industry experimentation with using biofuels.

To put this into perspective the NYT article cites air travel as currently accounting for 2.5% of global carbon dioxide emissions. But this is growing fast. Complicating things is the fact that these estimates do not take into account other effects on global warming from emissions of nitrogen oxides, water vapour, particulates, and contrails.

The basic fact is, popularity (and therefore growth) of air travel is outpacing any attempts to minimise emissions.

How much greenhouse gasses will we produce?

Our return flight from Sydney to Christchurch (around 4,252 km) will produce around 1.29 tonnes of CO2. Thats just between the two of us.
You can calculate your own flight’s carbon footprint here:

Lets see…. that is the equivalent in greenhouse emissions to around 1,837 laundry washes. Or 630 ten minute showers. Or 670 days of watching TV.

Carbon Offsets.

One way to feel a little better is to invest in carbon offsets for our flight.

The easiest way to do this is to tick the little ‘carbon neutral flight’ box that most airlines now provide as an aditional option when booking your flight. 

We are flying with Qantas and their website boasts to offsetting over 3 million tonnes of CO2 emissions since 2007, making it the largest offsetter of any airline. They assure us that 100% of contributions go towards projects and they provide options as to which type of project you would like to support. You can read more on that here:

Alternatively, once you have calculated your CO2 emissions you can donate independantly to a carbon offset project of your choice.

If you want to look into this more here is an excellent guide to all things carbon offsets:

In the end…

To be sure, this is all a bit like opening the gate to let the horse bolt and then paying for someone to go out and find it just to make yourself feel a little bit better about it all. And I can also puff myself up and give you (and me) a whole lot of justifications by listing ways in which our individual greenhouse gas emissions are pretty OK anyway.

In the end I think it’s easy to overthink the whole thing and end up flagellating yourself unnecessarily. The main thing is that we are doing the best we can and we are looking at ways to develop that best.

One response to “Flying into the climate emergency”

  1. We are taking the same approach as you. Individual responsobility , only dealing with commercial businesses that are trying to do their bit. My hope is that this combined focus will get us through the changes to climate that are controllable..


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