Our flights on airlines are big contributors to the emission of greenhouse gasses. Passenger miles per gallon of fuel vary depending on the length of trip and type of aircraft, of course, but a US to Europe flight might involve about 80 pmg or over 500 lbs of CO2 equivalent per hour of flying per passenger. To help counter these emissions and to raise awareness of the cost, some airlines have endorsed carbon offset programs. These calculate the amount of fuel “used” by each passenger on any particular flight and hence the emissions released. Passengers then can opt to pay extra into a fund to support projects that stop or absorb a similar amount of emissions from going into the atmosphere, such as wind power or planting trees. Some of these projects may be tax-deductible.
Trees alone, however, are not the answer, since a single mature tree can only absorb about 48 lbs of carbon a year. Flying is a necessary part of our lives. Let’s make sure we understand the long term costs.
What we can do:
- Minimize our air travel and, when we do fly, consider purchasing or investing in carbon offset programs.