Yesterday, you may have read, I posted about how No Impact Man lives once the rules of the No Impact Man project cease to exist. I called myself low impact man in that post, but I'm sticking with my original moniker. The ironies are just too precious.
Anyway, one thing I brought up is the fact that, in my life to come, my highest impact activity--air travel--will not be nixed from my life. Reduced substantially, I hope. Eighty-sixed, no.
So I thought it would be worthwhile to post some facts related to air travel, its impact, and its possible alternatives:
- Airplane-generated greenhouse gases, because they are injected directly into the upper atmosphere, are nearly three times as potent as the same gases produced on the ground.
- Air travel is now responsible for three percent of greenhouse gas emissions, but the number of air miles flown worldwide is set to triple by 2030.
- Meanwhile, 40-50% improved efficiency in aircraft is expected over the next 30 years.
- But put another way, air miles will increase by 5 to 6% a year, while efficiency will only improve by 1 to 2% a year.
- Some people believe that global travel to experience other cultures and firsthand experience of global beauty and eco-catastrophe is an important cultural motivator for positive change (it certainly has been for me).
- In a study in the UK, 40% of young people said they would be willing to stick with local food but only 4% were willing to fly less.
- On the other hand, 40 to 50% of air travel is for business purposes, and business travel is an increasingly stressful experience that people don't like and are motivated to eliminate.
- Business travel is hugely cost-inefficient, often wasting as much as a day per person in travel for meetings lasting only an hour and half.
- George Monbiot, author of Heat, suggests that we expend only "love miles," traveling by air only to see important friends and family. We should look for alternatives to luxury and business travel (thanks for leaving that in comments, Sharon). [Apparently, I got this wrong. Monbiot, Sharon comments, actually says we must also dramatically limit our love miles.]
- Hi-Definition, virtual meeting video-conferencing is getting increasingly sophisticated but is still hugely expensive at $200,000 to 450,000 (the image above shows the Cisco system).
- On the other hand, large companies who adopt it find that the costs are offset quickly by reduced travel expenses.
- For companies that can't afford their own setup, video-conferencing suites can also be rented in cities around the world.
- And there are inexpensive, lesser vide0-conferencing alternatives like Apple's iChat, Skype, or, for more sophisticated business applications, WebEx.
- Meanwhile, all of us should, of course, offset our air travel (my favorite place to do that is Native Energy), but offsets take last place in the carbon management hierarchy.
- Much better to reduce, and the fact of the matter is, what it comes to flying, we must.
PS I would love to hear about case studies of businesses substantially reducing air travel. Send 'em in!
PPS Those of you who wrote asking about my Indianapolis talk, I asked the organization who invited me but they have no extra seats. So sorry.