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Living Less Unsustainably: Flying

At a socially distant, outdoors, bring your own plate and fork, masked when not eating, potluck last week, I overheard a conversation about cheap airfares. Somebody was going to Alaska for a weekend, New York City for a few days, and then to an overseas destination for a longer trip. Monetarily it was a “good deal”. The airlines are hurting financially, and doing what they can to attract passengers.

But a good deal for you is a bad deal for the environment. While air travel has about the same, or fewer greenhouse gas emissions per mile than driving, the 600 mile per hour speed of a jet and the extra impact of upper atmospheric emissions means a few flights can have more climate impact than a year's worth of driving.

During early climate negotiations, air travel was left out of calculations. The rationale was a concern over which country to assign the emissions to- departure, or arrival. But some analysts contend leaving out air travel was a way for the more affluent - yes us-  to avoid responsibility for a large pool of emissions generated by a small group of people.

Short flights are worse than long flights because take-off and climb uses fuel at three times the rate as cruising. People often say "The plane is going to fly whether I'm aboard or not" but during COVID, jet fuel use is down by seventy percent. Airlines are rescheduling- not flying empty planes.

Flying to the Florida wedding of your college roommate’s best friend's brother makes for a fun weekend, and produces 3000 pounds of high altitude emissions. What was her name again- Kaylie- no no - Kylie- or was it Chloee?

Maybe you could just send a gift of carbon offsets, and bike over to your own brother's house.

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