Image via Flickr creative commons from Elsie esq.
Awareness of what effect our travel habits have on the environment has increased considerably in recent years, and now most people will understand what’s meant by terms such as carbon footprint and carbon offsetting. There is no getting away from the fact that a plane produces emissions, but there are steps that travellers can take to help negate the impact.
Carbon and flights
Holiday charter flights, business flights, luggage shipping even medical repatriation flights –they all have an impact on the environment. When fossil fuels are burned, by-products known as carbon emissions are produced. These gases, such as CO2, are already present in the atmosphere but as more fuel is burned, their concentration increases. CO2 is believed to be a major factor in global warming, which is why efforts are being made around the globe to limit the amount being released into the earth’s atmosphere.
Research has revealed that the carbon footprint of the average household is about 10 tons per year and much of this comes from transport use. For example, a return flight between London Heathrow and JFK airport in New York will result in 1.16 tons of carbon dioxide being produced per person.
It’s not just environmentally-minded travellers that are thinking about the impact that flying has on the atmosphere. Governments around the world are making concerted efforts to cut carbon emissions and reduce pollution. The UK for example has signed up to the Climate Change Act and as a result is committed to cutting all its climate-changing emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, based on 1990 levels.
It is possible to limit the impact that taking a flight has on the environment by joining a carbon offsetting scheme. They work by the traveller paying a certain amount of money depending on how much CO2 they expect to produce. This cash is then used to pay for projects elsewhere in the world that will result in CO2 being removed from the atmosphere. An example of a scheme could be a factory in India switching from the use of fossil fuels to solar power, or perhaps the construction of a wind farm instead of a new coal-fired power station. Such schemes have proved to be especially popular with businesses that have a strong social conscience and realise they need to play an active role in helping to combat climate change.
Advances in aviation technology
Cutting back on flights and offsetting the release of carbon dioxide is not the only answer. Tackling the heart of the issue and coming up with more sustainable methods of travel is also key. Boeing for example has come up with a design for a hybrid plane that runs not only on aviation fuel but also on electricity. The result is an aircraft that produces considerably lower emissions when it is in flight. It is these kinds of advances in technology that are set to play a key role in the fight against global warming over the coming years.