October 15, 2007

Environmental Concerns Down To Real Proportions

Writing about web page http://www.seat61.com/CO2flights.htm

Please sit down in Seat 62.In this world so preocuppied by the environment and pollution, it’s quite nice and useful to bring things down to real and personal proportions.

What does global warming mean these days? It is obviously something nobody wants and it’s a trendy item of discussion in international politics. It scores points to declare yourself against it. But when we hear the white polar bear is to die out within a few decades, or that the sea level might rise, we may feel powerless to the point of apathy.

But are we really powerless? I would like to suggest that we look at elements in our own direct environment. This means not just regulating the heater and only boiling the water that you need for your cup of tea. True as it may be, that sounds just a bit dusty and a small drop in a big ocean. But what about flying? Continental flights are these days so cheap that many of us hardly ponder the decision to take a plane. I dare guess that today we use more flights under 3 hours than anytime ever before.

And what are the consequences? Well, have a look at the link attached above. I distilled a few examples for you here. Flying to Paris from London pollutes by 244kg of CO2. Whereas a train to Paris cuts this figure by 90%, and is actually faster too! Flying to Barcelona can be replaced by a night train cutting emission by some 85%.

In short: for the sake of pollutionary moderation, try to take a train instead of a plane when you can. The same website points at some decently prices deals, and if that’s still too much for you, there’s always the National Express and Eurolines.

Hope this points some people at the facts and the possibilities. The waiting is now for someone to come and disprove the figures. Reactions are welcome.

- 3 comments by 1 or more people

  1. I’m sick to the back teeth of hearing “flying” and “global warming” heard together in the same sentence. For some reason these days, blaming this alleged crisis, which in my opinion is being totally overhyped to find an excuse to tax the hell out of us all, seems to be the fashionable and PC thing to do and it shows no signs of abating. Unfortunately, it’s an easy target.

    I don’t base my choice of transport on CO2 emissions unless there is an incentive for me to do so. I would, for example, buy a car in one of the lower emission bands to save on road tax. What you missed from your entry, however, were comparisons in price. For example, a return from London to Glasgow on the train costs just under 100 quid (or £240 if you travel during peak times) – why would you pay that when you can fly for less than £50 return? Who, apart from a few environmentalists, is going to pay a higher price because of a few relatively meaningless CO2 statistics?

    How do you quantify the statistics you quote? 244kg of CO2 means nothing to me. Is that a lot? How much does a car produce in a year? How much does a coal-fired power station produce? I’m not disputing it, but I would suggest that most people see that number and fail to see any significance in it.

    16 Oct 2007, 01:20

  2. emanuele

    I agree with you, price is very important to me, trains are very expensive and take more time, so why should I avoid flying ? And if you have seen Al Gore’s movie, it’s explained that most pollution comes by plants, and an american pollutes 3 times more than an european. We need some incentives not to pollute, and we need that everybody collaborate.

    18 Oct 2007, 23:36

  3. Although I don’t entirely agree with the two of you, I must say the criticism that you spell out is about the strongest you can bring in against my piece. Basically, Benjamin, it may make you angry or nausious to hear flying and global warming being related to each other, but unfortunately it’s simply the truth. From what I have found, there exists some consensus that the world-wide percentual contribution of flying to CO2 emission lies around 4%. At the same time, the number of passengers is expected to triple over the coming four or so decades. You can do the maths.

    You may bring against that 4% is really not so much, but I think it is. Comparing to driving, and how much more often we drive than we fly, driving is not nearly as polluting as flying. And if 4% would be the world average, it would not be unlikely that 10% of an average UK citizen’s CO2 annual output comes from flying.

    Naturally, like the two of you I am also a student, bound by time and money (particularly the latter), but does that refute the environmental facts of my story? Hey, of course I’d like to see train services improved, in fact, it outrages me that prices are totally uncompetitive to those of airways companies. But no matter how we look at it, current prices of flying are not reflective of the environmental sacrifice. In terms of incentives, expect flight prices to go up over the coming years, rather than train of coach prices to come down.

    For another useful reflection on the topic read the following Guardian column.

    20 Oct 2007, 18:51

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