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Flying and Driving: Can you Travel more Sustainably?
11 minute read
Updated on Thu Jan 28 2021
Why focus on transport?
Transport is responsible for 16% of global greenhouse gas emissions. If we’re looking to cut our personal emissions, this is a good place to start.
Flying creates 2.4% of global CO₂ emissions! But this is only part of the story - over half of its climate impact comes from non-CO₂ emissions.
For example, planes release trails of water vapour which produce clouds that trap energy from the sun, creating a warming effect three times that of CO₂!
How can you reduce your environmental impact from flying?
For some journeys, there are alternatives to flying, such as taking a train or ferry.
When this isn’t possible, flying economy is the next best option. Flying in business class produces 2 to 3 times as much CO₂ as flying economy, while flying first class produces 2 to 3 times as much CO₂ as flying business class! This is because premium seats take up more space.
Emissions from cars
In the EU, road transport (which includes cars, lorries, and buses) accounts for 72% of all emissions from transport!
That said, the best alternative is to take public transport, walk, or take a bicycle.
Should you buy an electric car?
Electric cars get their energy from electricity in a battery, rather than fuel in a tank.
Unfortunately, electricity is still generated by burning fossil fuels in most places.
When compared to conventional petrol vehicles, electric cars still produce fewer emissions in their lifetime.
Even in the US, where 84.3% of energy is produced by fossil fuels, electric vehicles emit half as much as petrol vehicles.
That said, electric cars still cause the same problems associated with all cars: traffic and road accidents.
Plus, cars release particles called PM₂.₅, which cause air pollution in cities. Most of these don’t come from the exhaust, but from friction in the breaks and the tyres, so occur on any type of car.
We can all play a role in reducing our emissions by limiting how much we travel as well as choosing transportation options with a lower carbon footprint.
Now you might be thinking “it’s great that I can cut my own carbon footprint, but it won’t change anything because I’m only one person”. This is an important concern, and we’ll look at it next!