Living Less Unsustainably: Air Travel and "Super-emitters"
While doing research on green tags, or carbon offsets last month, I was surprised to see how variable miles flown per person is. Some people fly often, and have large travel footprints while others take a trip every year or two.
But here are the numbers that startled me. The top one percent of fliers account for 50% of all airline emissions, and the top 12 percent produce two thirds of climate changing gases associated with air travel. One domestic trip per month, or three international trips per year puts you in the top 1% - the "super-emitter" category.
Of course flying is an almost exclusively first world activity. 80% of people on the planet have never been on a plane, and 90 percent almost never fly.
While air travel currently produces only 5% of climate altering emissions, the sector is expected to grow quickly, and is being promoted as a normal entitled behavior; all while there are no carbon neutral options on the horizon.
If enough people don't fly, fewer flights will be scheduled. And because super-emitters make up such a high percentage of air travel, they- maybe you- also have the power to make a big difference in airline emission totals.
Some climate activists have proposed an increasing cost as more miles are flown. Flight four would cost four times more than flight one. The money could be used for off-set projects. But the concept raises the disturbing possibility that if you have enough money, you can do whatever you want.
So if you take a trip on a plane once a year- stay awhile, feel guilty, and buy double off-sets.
But if breakfast in Buenos Aires, lunch in London, and dinner in Denver is on your bucket list, consider the planetary indigestion you'll be causing before you board.
I'm John Fischer with KLCC's living less unsustainably.