Though the scientific and moral case against flying is robust, the reaction to making it has made me lose faith in the power of individual action. I think the only solution is a carbon price: see why in my new introduction.
It is morally reprehensible to take plane flights.
This is what the best current science tells us.
Connecting cheap foreign breaks with mass murder is bound to be controversial; it’s going to upset or offend a lot of people. But, if you’ll brush aside your scepticism for a moment and keep reading, you will see that it can be shown that air travel can be scientifically demonstrated to be ethically forbidden.
I’m not going to accuse half the Western World of being complicit in mass murder without thorough justification. So, each word in the statement “your holiday is killing African children” is a link to a section explaining how and why that word is valid.
The summary is simple. Human activity is causing the Earth to heat up. Fast. Unchecked, this climate change will have catastrophic consequences for the human race: famine, flooding, extreme weather and disease will wreak suffering upon millions or billions of the World’s poorest people. The single biggest contribution you as an individual can make to averting this catastrophe is to stop taking plane flights. A single Jumbo Jet can burn over two hundred thousand litres of fuel in a trip, emitting the equivalent of over five hundred tonnes of carbon dioxide. Can you afford to ignore that?
Why get worked up?
I would like to make it clear before we start that I am not a raving greenie eco-warrior. Planes are cool. I have taken a couple of short flights in the past (before I was aware of how environmentally damaging they were). There is something incredible about being thrust back in your seat as fifty tonnes of metal, passengers and baggage pulls away from the ground.
I also appreciate that air travel has economic and social benefits. Cheap travel around the World has broken down national boundaries, making the World smaller and richer, both economically and culturally, than it ever has been before.
Where I take issue with plane flight is its massive capacity to increase the global average temperature. I contend that neither planes being cool, nor the socioeconomic improvements of air travel, can compensate for the massive human tragedy that climate change will cause.
So, what difference can one little plane flight make? The next section, The Numbers, will give you an idea.