Flying Is and Will Be a Major Source of Our Global Warming Problems and Is Currently a Great Example for Climate Injustice – so Let‘s Put Our Energies Here Before it‘s Too Late!

by | 09 Apr 2019 | Opinion

A replik to Sasja Beslik by Anne Kretzschmar, campaigner of Stay Grounded

On April 5th, an article on the Blog Usejournal appeared, suggesting that:

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Let‘s start this statement with the points I agree on with Sasja Beslik:

Global warming is a systemic problem and it needs to be addressed first and foremost on the systemic level. Oil companies, airlines, governments and the profit orientated financial and economic systems are responsible for the ongoing destruction of our planet and for the social injustice related to it.

To focus our energy only on blaming environmentalists for flying too much, shifts the discussion away from a substantive debate about the climate crisis and the kind of radical changes needed to face it.

„There are no sustainable alternatives to long distance air-travel“ Electric air travel is still years away – and I would even say it‘s very questionable if it‘s possible and also sustainable at all.

Now getting to the parts where I strongly disagree with Sasja Benlik who says living in the real world means flying in planes:

I would say: The fact that there are no sustainable alternatives to flights in most of the cases is why it is even more justified and ultimately nessecary, to question air travel and the hypermobile lifestyle that is connected to it. We can do this on a personal level, ending up in ennoying discussions about this or that trip and if it‘s really justified and needed or not.

And we can do it on a systemic level, realizing that a systemic change will actually mean „CHANGE“ – ALSO of habits and of lifestyle! And that we will not be able – and shouldn‘t – continue our imperial and hypermobile lifestyle. And this will also mean „Flying less“. By the way: „We“ here is referring to the countries of the Global North.

Now about Aviation: Aviation is the most climate damaging form of transport and one of the fastest growing sources of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. So if people like Sasja Beslik are talking about aviation accounting for only 2% of global carbon emissions, that is dangerously misleading in many ways:

First of all, we need to take into account the non-CO2 effects of aviation (ozone, induced cloudiness, contrails…) that are neglected in nearly all of the numbers and statistics. Taken this into account we talk about at least 5% of global warming emissions through aviation.

Second, when it comes to reaching Paris Agreements targets and Climate Justice the major problem of aviation industry is it‘s ongoing and unquestioned growth and it‘s unjust distribution. The EEA estimates, that the CO2-Emissions from Aviation will account for 22% of global emissions by 2050 if no further action is taken. Europe will be a major source of growth, with Eurocontrol forecasting a 53% growth in passenger numbers by 2040 compared with today.

Looking at individual travel behaviour, e.g. in Germany, flying is as relevant for the climate as driving cars – while most of the flights are taken by wealthy citizens.

On a global level, we talk about at least 80% of the population who has never set foot into an airplane. And yet the people in the global south are already suffering most from the climate crisis.

This means: if we start NOW to stop aviation industries licence to grow and reduce flights from the Global North we would actually prove some real kind of foresightness – something quite rare in climatepolitics I admit – and show that we take responsibility for the massive part we take in causing the climate crisis.

We need to act now!

I agree with Sasja Benlik, that we should support alternatives to short- and middle-haul flights like trains. But at the same time we need to cut aviation industries priviledges:

Aviation industry benefits from major tax priviledges and subsidies. There is no tax on kerosine in many countries. There is no VAT on international flights. Most of the regional and international airports in Europe need state support to survive. THIS NEEDS TO CHANGE. NOW! As fridays for future in Germany demands now: no subsidies to fossil industries!

And yet: if we want this change to happen, we need a society and people who want this change and agree and accept the change it means for their lifestyle. And this is NOT practicing carbon offsetting – which actually doesn‘t solve any climate problem, but creates major landuse conflicts and has a very questionable impact on reducing carbon emissions. It means simply #flyingless. Read Stay Grounded’s publication on the Illusion of green flying for more information.

Showing that this is actually possible and needed can be one task of environmentalists. Especially if they are famous enough to be heard. People like Greta Thunberg and Björn Ferry do have a „systemic“ impact with their „individual“ choice not to fly. Not everybody is as famous as they are. Not everybody is in the situation to risk their job or family relation by pledging not to fly. But many of us are.

So people like Sasja Beslik could be in the front position of showing what is needed if we want to do (environmental) politics and business while flying less. Demand for online participation in a meeting or conference! Use your influence to show that fossil free is an option and that we can #staygrounded in so many cases. Don‘t join the greenwashing business of Aviation industry! Realize that aviation is and will be a major source of our Global Warming Problems and Climate Unjustice and that we need to head for Degrowth of Aviation before it is too late!