Air travel and climate change


Sir, – In his article “How to cut your carbon footprint and save cash” (Life, May 27th), Conor Pope lists flying less as one of the actions for us to consider.

However, he doesn’t dwell too much on this option, noting that cutting down on flying is one of the more difficult things we can do, due to us living on an island.

Ireland’s population does indeed have an additional challenge in this regard, and we need air travel to remain connected to the global economy and to family abroad. Yet we should question some of our flying habits.

The advent of the era of cheap flights in the early 1990s was a kind of liberation for many, as it suddenly made foreign travel more accessible. But now we are in an era of climate emergency, and the term low-cost flying has become somewhat grotesque.

Environmentally, there is in fact nothing low-cost about aviation. It is an offensive misnomer. The costs for everyone are sky high, literally, and rising. Aviation is one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the most climate-intensive form of transport.

Unless measures are taken, growth in aviation emissions will result in them amounting to all or nearly all of the annual global CO2 emissions budget by 2050, if climate change is to be held to a temperature increase of 2 degrees Celsius or less.

Even the putatively low monetary cost of flights comes at the expense of the taxpayer who has to pick up the tab for the ongoing exemptions granted to the aviation sector for aircraft fuel.

Whether it’s a weekend city trip, winter sun holiday, or trip across the water to see the match, a large percentage of the air miles people clock up is entirely discretionary and avoidable.

Flying less becomes more achievable if we’re prepared to reflect more on our choice of holiday and on the need to travel by plane at all.

If we wish to speak of our difficulties of freedom of movement as islanders, let us too spare a thought for the rather more existential challenges facing the inhabitants of the Pacific Islands who have pleaded to the UN to act to reduce emissions drastically so that they stand some chance of protecting their homes and communities from being washed away. – Yours, etc,