Greta Almost Made me Miss My Flight....

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Blokko
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Greta Almost Made me Miss My Flight....

I was in Vancouver on Friday, heading back home after a week on site.  I was already cutting it fine to get to the airport and I was held up a little by Greta Thunberg heading a climate action march / rally.

The event reminded me of articles I'd read earlier in the week stating that -

  1. Brits make more flights than people from any other nation
  2. There is a call to ban air miles and associated schemes as they promote unnecessary air travel
  3. Calls to tax frequent flyers.  A small percentage of the population make a large percentage of the flights
  4. Lewis Hamilton is having grave misgivings about his impact on the environment and has gone veggie and will be selling his private jet

#1 surprised me a little - I expected the US to have a higher percentage of flights.  On #3, this article claims that 70% of UK flights are made by just 15% of the population, with 57% of the population making no foreign trips by air.  Also covered here.

On #2, personally I don't think that air miles promote people to make unnecessary trips, but they do promote brand loyalty.  A colleague of mine met me for a meeting out on the west coast and took 3 flights to my 2 just so he could keep with his favored airline and get points or other benefits.  I guess that this may lead to more miles being flown than otherwise might be the case.  That said, if you are a frequent flyer and are just under a threshold to get or retain lounge access, I can see the attraction in making an extra flight for such privileges.  I fly a lot, but it is always in the cheapest seat going.  There was a period where I got lounge access with BA and fairly frequent upgrades as a result - when you are spending so much time at airports (often in your own time rather than company time) it can make a big difference to the experience.

On #4, it is interesting now that the celebs (including royalty) are getting called out for their hypocrisy on their enviro positions while still taking lots of high-carbon emitting flights on private jets.  That hasn't stopped the likes of Hamilton continuing to speak out on the issue and to pledge to reduce their emissions.

Back to #3.  I've just gone through my diary and totted up my travel for the year.  I was a bit surprised to see that by the end of the year I will have passed 60k miles in the air.  This wasn't a typical year for me (my annual mileage dropped significantly when I moved to the US so I didn't have to do the 6-7 trips across the pond a year that I used to do).  About 18k of the miles were trips back home (that I would have otherwise not made) because of the illness and subsequent death of my dad.  That leaves about 12k of personal miles (a trip to LA / Vegas and a trip back to the UK to see family for Christmas) and about 30k of business miles. 

It would be interesting to see how any sort of taxation system would work given that, like many other people who fly, it is for work purposes rather than for pleasure.  Also, there would be issues around taxation jurisdiction and collection.  I'm sure that Mike (Croc) and a few others on here would face a hefty tax bill if they were taxed on the amount of miles they flew in a year.

Flights have the ability to make the world a smaller place and in so doing have a positive knock-on economic impact upon economies around the world in terms of hotels, restaurants etc. that make their money off globe-trotters and weekend city-breakers alike.  But do the economic and social positives outweigh the impact that flights are having on the climate?  Should aero fuel be taxed or, as the articles above indicate, should frequent flyers pay more than the people who just make the occasional trip?  Is it time to get rid of air miles to see if that leads to a drop in (unnecessary) flights?

Golf Juliet Tango
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Brits make more flights than people from any other nation: I don't think that is what the article says. I suspect that more flights are taken in the USA and by more people but not international ones. Blame the English Channel and Michael O'Leary/Stelios Haji-Iaonnou

There is a call to ban air miles and associated schemes as they promote unnecessary air travel:  Yes. They are ostensibly designed to promote "brand loyalty" but have the effect of promoting air travel. (Why drive to the Cotswolds/Yorkshire Wolds, when you can fly to Jersey/Paris/Berlin on your points?)

Calls to tax frequent flyers.  A small percentage of the population make a large percentage of the flights: Sure, why not? Taxation is about policy as well as finance.  At present there is a powerful worldwide trend of increasing inequality; the rich are getting richer, the poor increasingly impoverished. Why do you think there is so much migration from China, Vietnam, Syria, Iraq, Zimbabwe to Europe or from central America to the USA?  (and I will answer this - because even menial jobs in the destination nations earn considerably more than what work is available at home). Just look at the risks taken - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-50203096 I wouldn't want to be locked in a container for five minutes let alone a refrigerated one or for an unknown number of hours on end.

Lewis Hamilton is having grave misgivings about his impact on the environment and has gone veggie and will be selling his private jet:  He'll sell his private plane if it is fiscally advantageous, he won't stop flying in someone else's private plane. This is green-washing.  Of course commercial flights have a better safety record than private ones but neither he nor Prince Harry are going to take one whatever they say.

Stephen Hubbard

Democratic dissent is not disloyalty, it is a positive civic duty

StevehS3
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Taxing frequent flyers. Would that be for business or personal use? 
Should the business be taxed (even though exporting goods is already expensive and difficult and we should be doing more to encourage it, or the individual who is already massively and personally inconvenienced by it)? It would be strange to give companies grants and help with export and then tax them for flying.

aerobod
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A few basic calculations of the energy lifecycle of an Imoca 60 carbon fibre racing yacht (used by Greta to cross the Atlantic) compared with a carbon fibre 787 doing Atlantic crossings (nominal 11,000 km London New York return):

- Carbon fibre and other similar high tech materials require about 800GJ of energy per tonne to produce (about 16x that of steel). Kerosene has an energy density of 35MJ of energy per litre.

- In a 20:year life a racing yacht could do about 240 return crossings with 2 sailing crew and 2 passengers each time, A 7.4 tonne Imoca 60 would therefore require 1.12MJ of energy per passenger kilometre to "pay off" its energy production cost.

- In a 20-year life a 787-9 would do about 6,500 return crossing with 2 flight crew and an average load of 200 passengers each time (likely over 250 passengers for budget airlines such as Norwegian and WestJet). A 130 tonne empty weight 787-9 would require about 80,000 litres of fuel per return trip, leading to 7.27kJ of energy per passenger kilometre to "pay off" its energy production cost and 1.27MJ of fuel energy per passenger kilometre (1.02 MJ for a budget airline).

Basically the lifecycle energy usage per passenger kilometre of a wind-powered carbon fibre racing yacht is the same as a carbon fibre kerosene-powered widebody aircraft. Of course one could also add other factors such as infrastructure costs (airports and marinas), maintenance and recycling at end of life, but I'm too lazy to expand the calcs at the moment.

James

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I think people who like to fly are going to have to "get over it". The winds of public opinion are against it so some sort of forced reduction is coming. The WTO is looking at environmental impact tariff mechanisms, which could make a big dent in all sorts of trade. Maybe Trump is right, trade local, move stuff less?

john aston
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But none of that matters . The protests have gained impetus and will continue to do so. . Personally, I find it ridiculous that it can  be  50 % cheaper for me to fly to Rome  and back than  a return rail ticket to London . And a QANTAS Drreamliner flying , with just 50 onboard  from New York to Sydney - 10 000miles  - using 101 tonnes of fuel ? An open goal to critics

Golf Juliet Tango
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Embedded CO2 is one issue.

The emission of the proucts of combustion into the upper atmosphere is another.

I use arguments about longevity and recyclability to justify owning and driving two old Caterhams, despite their shockingly poor fuel economy.

Stephen Hubbard

Democratic dissent is not disloyalty, it is a positive civic duty

Stridey
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On the thought that you thought Americans would fly more than Brits, it reminded me that I was told Americans travel less internationally than most other 1st world nations. I put this down to their minimal holiday entitlement, often two weeks annually (after being in a job a full year) and that they had every kind of environment within the 50 states. Also that politically it was encouraged to be insular deliberately. Politically and militarily easier to attack places you don't know, perhaps

Then I found out that the French travel internationally even less... which I put down to language and that again, you can find almost every kind of environment/countryside within France.

Also I am reminded of the Auf Wiedersen Pet line where Oz was asked where he went on holiday... "Majorca!"... "Where is that then?" ..."Dunno, we flew there"...

Britain is a small island, getting to an airport is relatively easy for us. I sincerely think travel should be encouraged, the more we know our neighbours and other cultures the more peaceful the world will become. It's hard to bomb people you know....

Golf November 10
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I would be interested to know the breakdown between recreational flights and business flights. I do take about 5 return flights within Europe each year, but I do hear of business users travelling to Europe on a weekly basis to attend meetings. I am hoping JK can help. S

D Jones
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Fascinating discussion, some very good thought processes going on.

i remember talk of vapour trails from aircraft reflecting sunlight and actually cooling the planet, did any real research go into this statement, or was it disregarded in all the talk of emissions

David

Jonathan Kay
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Sorry, no special knowledge: but I'm fascinated and impressed by the discussion so far. Please keep it coming. It's not long since this would have been devalued by denial and illogic and Members would have wondered if it was worth joining in.

...

Britain is a small island, getting to an airport is relatively easy for us. I sincerely think travel should be encouraged, the more we know our neighbours and other cultures the more peaceful the world will become. It's hard to bomb people you know....

And trade with. It's an enormous effect, see "Better Angels...".

"And what should they know of England who only England know?"

But of course Kipling's thinking is much deeper than his popular image might suggest.

...

Maybe Trump is right, trade local, move stuff less?

But wrong on isolationism and denial. For Europe a big shift to rail transport for freight would help and is achievable.

...

The protests have gained impetus and will continue to do so.

I think people who like to fly are going to have to "get over it".

Yes. And future generations will look at this very differently because they've been taught about the problem while they're young. 

Jonathan

PS: One of the stranger effects of XR has been my discussing with a retired GP how to buy an untraceable burner 'phone!