Whether you choose to fly or not is not a moral decision. Based on the information and the knowledge there is, you make your own decision according to your beliefs. Based on science and the statistics that experts, authorities and companies share and the information the public gives you it is possible to make your own decision on what you feel is best. How much effect does the individual have on the environment by taking the domestic flight instead of the train or the car? How big is the effect if you refrain from flying at all? Everything has a prize, everybody knows that, but is it true that the coral reefs in the Pacific Ocean will bleach if you decide to take a flight there to look at them? Is the effect on climate less if the aircraft industry decides to only use biofuel?
Facts of the Debate
Today there is a large debate on the effect of airplanes to the environment. International celebrities like Barack Obama and Arnold Schwarzenegger are contributing to this debate and it is of course an important debate. What seems to be a bit off in it is that the amount of emissions from the aircraft industry is very small compared to the fleet on ground if you look at it from the eyes of the transportation business. According to the UN climate panel, “Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change”, usually named IPCC, the transport section stands for 14% of the total emissions in the world of which the flights stand for 10,6 percent. This means that the aircraft industry stands for 1,4% of the total amount of emissions in the world. If you compare this to all road transports, that stands for 74% of all transports, the emissions from the aircraft industry is rather small. Road transports stand for 10% of the total emissions on earth. Although these are old numbers which will change in the years to come due to expansion of flights, however you look at it the emissions from flights will be relatively small in comparison with transports on the ground.
Fossil Fuels and Renewable Energy
Looking at these numbers, even when increasing, we should ask ourselves how we can make the most difference. Should we stay on the ground or would it be better to park our cars? The answer may not be easy. It can be both ways, maybe a total re-evaluation and adaptation. The knowledge on that fossil fuels affects the environment is negative is something that car- and truck-manufacturers are aware of. This has made cars and trucks more fuel-efficient and the alternative kinds of fuels have increased on cars and trucks sold today.
No Equivalent in the Plane Industry
Airplanes manufactured today are also more efficient and kinder on the environment. Airplanes manufactured today has lighter chassis and so called sharklets on the wingtips to reduce fuel consumption. Despite this the construction is just as it has always been. The big difference is on the engines where efficiency has increased, and emissions decreased. Unfortunately, it has only led to between 5 and 15% in savings than what the car industry has managed by its 50% decrease on fuel consumption. Aircraft industry often market themselves with green departures, meaning planes filled with passengers and no stops. This is a good initiative, but it gives very little win for the environment. The also take pride in a green fleet, meaning planes of newer models, engines and lighter chassis. To say that a fleet is green for using fossil fuels is somehow misleading because there is no effective and sustainable solution for biofuel to count on for airplanes today. The future of the aircraft industry will have a huge effect on environment which makes it utterly important that the quest should be to increase use of renewable fuels.