Should we be ashamed of traveling by plane? - The360 Travel

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  • Thursday, December 19, 2019

    Should we be ashamed of traveling by plane?

    Should we be ashamed of traveling by plane?

    105 years ago took off the first commercial flight in the United States. Since then, flying has become a commonplace act. But in a time of climate change, is it becoming a shameful act?

    Yes, slice without hesitation Aurélie Vernon. "I flew too far and now I'm ashamed, I was not aware of the harm I was doing to the planet," says the 38-year-old French actress who instigated a petition calling for the end of air travel to limit global warming. The click took place during a public reading of the texts of the ecologist Eric Vincent, in 2017. Since then, it remains "nailed to the ground". Train journey. Refuses the proposals of shows overseas. Spend her holidays near her home.

    "I'm not saying I'll never fly again. But not until we reverse global warming, she says. After all, what's the use of traveling to see dead corals? We must pay the consequences of our way of life. Solve the problem."

    If its position may surprise, in this era where we have never traveled so much, it is far from unique. He does not spend a week or so without such an initiative being announced. Similar petitions are multiplying. In Switzerland, a university plans to forbid students to fly away for the official trips whose destination is less than 1000 km in the autumn, and municipalities have decided to no longer finance school trips involving the plane. Journalists from the Danish daily Politiken no longer have the right to fly for internal travel, while scientists are in the crosshairs of the "No fly for the climate, Sci" campaign (Scientists, do not fly anymore for climate), launched by university researchers who consider them to replace all conferences and congresses with virtual meetings.

    The attacks are fed and they come from several fronts. Including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, of course, with the proliferation of hashtags like #stopflying, #flyingless and # nofly2019. In short: we think twice before boasting his next vacation on the other side of the planet.

    In 2017, however, air transport accounted for only 2% of the planet's carbon emissions. Except that there are, say the alarmers, this proportion is increasing at a brisk pace: emissions grew by 70% between 1990 and 2010, against 25% for the overall average. At this rate, international aviation could be responsible for 22% of global emissions by 2050 (report of the Öko Institute, presented to the European Parliament in 2017).

    Travelers now have the option to buy carbon offsets: a few clicks, a few tens of dollars are enough to ease his conscience.

    "No ! It's a big deception. It's an idea promoted by the industry, but we can not compensate directly: pollution can not be removed from the air, "said Magdalena Heuwieser, founder of Stay Grounded, a group of About 100 associations against air transport, founded in 2017.

    Scientists give him reason. Including Susanne Beckam, professor of sustainable tourism at Griffith University, Australia, specialist in the subject. "Buying offsets certainly does not mean that emissions are miraculously erased: pollution will be emitted and will still accumulate in the atmosphere, increasing CO2 concentrations. We can not fly "neutral" [...]. We can not fly "green"."

    Money from purchased credits is used to finance projects that will reduce emissions in another sector (for example: financing solar panels, planting trees, etc.), "finally, ideally, and if the project continues Says Susanne Beckam. But at best, "the status quo is barely maintained," while a significant reduction is needed to meet the 2050 Paris Agreement target, she said.

    "To be a responsible tourist, you have to fly less. There is no other solution."

    Still, the reality is not the same in Europe - where the movement is more organized - and in North America. "Train networks are not as well developed at home as in Europe," says Magdalena Heuwieser. I would be in no position to tell Canadians to stop flying altogether, when we have more alternatives."

    "But flying for whatever reason is a choice and you have to live with the consequences of that choice," says Heuwieser. People have to lobby politicians to improve rail networks - especially night connections - to tax frequent travelers. Businessmen are no longer justified in flying to attend a meeting when everything can be done via the internet."

    But will the feeling of guilt of travelers translate into concrete actions? Paul Arseneault, director of the Transat Tourism Chair at UQAM, does not think tourists will stop flying anytime soon. "There is no economic incentive to travel less. Air tickets have never been so cheap, "he says. And what is the point of stopping flying if you continue to buy blueberries imported from Chile all year long? "You have to be consistent," says Madgalena Heuweiser. It's all our way of life that needs to be reviewed."

    Tips to limit your footprint during travel

    1. Prioritize the train for internal connections: Paris-Montreal by plane, okay. But Paris-Geneva by train.
    2. Give priority to direct flights, even if they are more expensive. The shortest distance between two points pollutes less, that's logical. But we also avoid a second takeoff, the most greedy kerosene stage of the trip.
    3. Traveling light, with the least amount of luggage possible, because the heavier the plane, the more it will burn kerosene.
    4. Concentrate your holidays: instead of making three small trips in the year, we make one, longer. On the one hand, we will take less plane and on the other hand, we can better explore the destination.
    5. Traveling in economy class. The more passengers on board an aircraft, the smaller the average footprint of each.
    6. Purchase carbon offsets from a recognized organization, for example, which is certified by the GoldStandard organization.

    Some statistics

    • 8%: The share of greenhouse gas emissions attributable to tourism (all activities combined), according to a study published in Nature Climate Change by researchers at the University of Sydney in 2018. That's four times more than previous estimates.
    • 2 tonnes: CO2 emissions for a return flight Montréal-Paris, in economy class (according to In comparison, a Canadian produces an average of 15 tonnes of CO2 per year, all activities combined (latest data available from the World Bank, 2014). A trip to Paris represents 13% of a Canadian's annual emissions.
    • 41.8 million: Number of flights that carried 4.1 billion people in 2017.
    • 423: Number of new airports currently under construction or planned, the majority in South East Asia. Also, 121 new tracks are planned in the existing installations.

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