Flight Shame: The Climate Hazards of Air Travel

It’s hard to know exactly when the idea of flight abstinence was born, but one important milestone cited by non-flyers was the British writer George Monbiot’s 2007 book Heat: How We Can Stop the Planet Burning. One of the chapters covered the climate hazards of air travel. After reviewing the literature, Monbiot concluded that there was, alas, “no technofix. The growth in aviation and the need to address climate change cannot be reconciled.” Most airplanes would need to be grounded, he wrote, which he realized was “not a popular message.” He went on: “But I urge you to remember that these privations affect only a tiny proportion of the world’s people. The reason they seem so harsh is that this tiny proportion almost certainly includes you.” But while our personal travel habits can play a role in shifting the culture, more systemic and institutional changes will obviously be needed if we are to have any hope of curbing emissions from aviation.

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