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AIR TRAVEL AND ITS IMPACT ON CLIMATE CHANGE

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·         Freight rail was 18% more fuel efficient per ton-mile than water carriers. And, comparing energy consumption per rail-car-mile and per mile traveled by heavy single-unit and combination trucks, the rail-car consumed 36% fewer British Thermal Units. 

[Source for all modes: Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Transportation Energy Data Book: Edition 25, tables 2.11, 2.12 and 2.14] 

Surprisingly, the Kyoto Protocol does not address greenhouse gases produced by the airline industry due to the difficulty in allocating responsibility for aircraft emissions between countries.  This means aircraft emissions are not calculated into its effects on climate change.

As to whether carbon-trading will fix the problem, the following is from an article in the Guardian, "What is the environmental cost of flying?" 

EU aircraft emissions have risen by 87% since 1990, and by 2030 the government says a quarter of all UK carbon pollution will come from jet engines. The decision to increase the capacity of Heathrow and other airports mean that almost the entire government-projected carbon quota for 2050 will be bagged by aircraft. Airlines say they have made great strides in fuel efficiency - up 70% since the 1960s - but a rapid expansion in the number of flights will swamp future improvements. And there is no obvious technological fix. 

So what is the solution? Yesterday, the EU took the first steps to snare airlines in its emissions-trading scheme, which requires companies to buy their way out of missed pollution targets. That the majority of airlines support the move speaks volumes. 

According to Friends of the Earth member Richard Dyer: "Emissions trading is better than nothing, but it will have a tiny impact on aviation emissions. We need additional measures to curb aviation demand."

There is a substantial increase in one's carbon footprint, especially for someone who does not drive yet continues to fly.  Each of us can calculate our carbon footprint by going to My Green Lifestyle http://green.yahoo.com/calculator/results.  First, do your calculations with the amount of flying you actually do and then as if you did not use air travel.  It might surprise you to learn how substantial the impact of flying has on your carbon footprint. 

I do not want to start judging others by whether they fly or don't fly, drive cars or don't drive cars, or live in the city or don't live in the city.  There are too many variables involved to judge one another simply on one or two lifestyle choices.  I think it best to focus on how each of us can lower our own carbon footprint and give serious consideration to, if not eliminating, at least reducing your air travel.

But, we also cannot leave it there.  We must also continue to educate ourselves and the public and take action to stop our government from subsidizing pollution and personally take responsibility to actively promote alternative forms of transportation.  We are all passengers on this planet Earth and, as far as I know, it still remains the only spaceship we have.  Let's keep up the maintenance necessary to sustain this planet for ourselves and future generations.

 

Referenced articles:

 

Cheap air travel adding to global warming woes 

http://www.climateark.org/shared/reader/welcome.aspx?linkID=12586

 

What is the environmental cost of flying? | Environment | The Guardian 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2006/dec/21/ethicalliving.theairlineindustry

 

Amtrak Position Paper http://www.trainweb.com/advocate/2002/lbpaper.html

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Political activist living on Vashon Island in the state of Washington. Former Chair of Green Party of Washington State (GPoWS); member of Green Party Peace Network; member of StandUp! Seattle; and Jewish peace activist supporting a one-state (more...)
 
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