“The jet-setting habits of Bill Gates and Paris Hilton mean that they produce an astonishing 30,000 times more carbon emissions from flying than the average person”, found a recent scientific study. Who flies, who doesn’t – and who cannot fly?
On a global average, in order to keep global temperature rise to under 1.5 degrees Celsius, everyone would have to cut consumption-based greenhouse gas emissions down to 2.5 tonnes of CO2 equivalents in 2030, to 1.4 by 2040, and 0.7 by 2050. One long-haul flight alone already exceeds this budget.
Air traffic is a major obstacle to climate justice. While to Western Europeans, it might seem normal to fly, this “normality” has only existed in the last decades, and is still rare on a global scale. It is hard to find exact numbers, but estimations say that about 10%, or between 5 and 20%, of the global population has ever taken a flight. Lots of people cannot afford flying, or are not allowed to do so because of restrictive migration policies.
Of the few percent of the world population who have ever flown, an even smaller proportion flies regularly. Numbers for England show that in a given year 10% of the residents take more than half of the flights abroad. Similar statistics exist for other countries.
Few frequent fliers heat up the planet – at the expense of others: residents exposed to noise and particle pollution from planes, local ecosystems, future generations and those in the Global South who are already bearing the brunt of earth heating.
There’s also a big difference to be made between the reasons for flying. So should a businessman on his monthly flights to his Tuscan villa be treated the same as someone who flies every second year to visit close family on another continent? There are solutions to this injustice issue – find out more about a frequent flyer levy and other measures.