What’s the fastest way to cut your greenhouse gas emissions? Stop flying. Taking a transatlantic flight from London to New York puts as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as a typical year spent commuting to work by car.

Of course, the numbers are complicated. For example, a Boeing 747 travelling a short-haul route from London to Scotland with a full compliment of passengers will put out less CO2 per person than if the passengers had travelled by car over the same distance. However, a significant proportion of a flight’s CO2 emissions come from take-off and landing, which will be the same regardless of distance, and short-haul flights are also more likely to have empty seats (plus, it’s highly unlikely that the 747’s passengers would all take individual cars up to Edinburgh if the flight was cancelled).

Regardless, rail travel is unambiguously much, much better for the environment than flying. Giving up air travel is a great way to drive down your emissions (though giving up meat may be even better choice). So, should we all make the switch?

Aircraft are becoming more fuel efficient, and airlines are packing on more people per flight than they used to (which is better for the planet, but doesn’t always make for a pleasant experience). Yet commercial aviation is currently the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions out there, and airlines are predicted to triple the amount of CO2 they pump out by 2050. So, is now really the best time to expand Heathrow, or finish Berlin’s infamous €7 billion euro airport?

Should we stop flying to help the environment? Would the world be better off if we all took rail travel? Or is the airline industry improving fuel efficiency? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts!

Image Credits: (c) BigStock – CreativeNaturePhotography

84 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar

    To defend the environment just stop being stupid. Don’t buy every last reased model of a smartphone or Avery piece of Chinese junk just because it’s cheap. Buy only what you really need to reduce future waste. Don’t buy a new piece of cloth or a pair of shoes every month just to be on the trend. Start thinking smart.

  2. avatar

    Stopping progress for the sake of environment is a faulty thinking of stupid people. New technologies, materials etc. should help to make a difference in fighting also environmental challenges.

    • avatar

      we need to reduce carbon footprint of 50% in the next 10 years. No technology can provide this. The only possibility is to drastically limit the number of flights. Afterwards, we will have time to find new technologies.

    • avatar

      “Technology will save us”… Keep deaming while we’re dying.

  3. avatar

    Yes for small distance where the train can be quicker et cheaper ! Bring a flight between Paris and Bruxelles is like taking the car to buy a bread at 500m of your houses !

    • avatar

      trains are never cheapier as you need to keep tracks in good shape all the time. Plus if this is an electric train then electricity is not produced with wind and sun only – so it is not as green). Same story with electric cars – marketing bullshit, unfortunately

  4. avatar

    I guess I’ll have to use a flying horse to go from Europe to America

  5. avatar

    A Boeing 747 uses 10,668kg of aviation fuel for the take-off, climb and descent portions of the flight and these account for about 530km and releasing over 33 tonnes of CO2. If there would be good infrastructure and TGV / ICE all around Europe, we could really travel eco friendly without polluting air so much as flying by planes, and not spending much more time than by flying (incl. getting to airport, waiting 2 hours at least there plus delays, waiting for luggate) but it seems for me just a very distant goal but we should go for it and put as No1 priority for future transportation and invest EU funds.

  6. avatar

    A poorly formulated question. It would be far better to improve public transport and make it more affordable for longer distances. The amount of planes needed would be reduced as a result. Banning flying would have consequences that would pose massive economic problems, for one thing.

  7. avatar

    Maybe if 7.5 billion stopped breathing out CO2, that could help also…but as impractical as abolishing air travel.
    Rather than look to ban such things….find (technical ) ways to ameliorate them.

    • avatar

      Unfortunately I do not see such thing happening within the timeframe left ( 10 years?)

    • avatar

      not sure what the 10 yrs refers to….Armageddon will take a little longer. ….planes are becoming more and more fuel efficient (driven by a demand from airlines to reduce costs)r….but keep it in perspective…aircraft produce around 2% of CO2 emmisions. ..plenty of other priority issues to address.

    • avatar

      ‘Plenty of other priorities’ = let the others do the job, I am too lazy for it. 10 years comes from IPCC last report. Open your eyes!

    • avatar

      strange comment….would suggest better to focus on the 98% rather than the 2% !!

    • avatar

      Yes, that says everybody… so the 98% are never being taken care of…

  8. avatar

    We should stop transporting goods for thousands kms on roads by lorries, and use our railway system. … that would make much sense
    And buy local products

    • avatar

      so true.. And still they keep making more and more trade deals so the rich 1% can get more money.

    • avatar

      Yes, supermarkets should be obliged not to refuse selling of local produced goods. That would be a good start.

  9. avatar

    How about with horse carriages? We will be also fertilising the soil while doing it?

    • avatar

      I know about a small town that uses a modern horse-drawn carriage for garbage collection. Its cost is marginal compared to a garbage truck, it’s much quieter, and it runs on fodder instead of gasoline.

    • avatar

      Sounds like a great idea but I can bet operators will run away if municipality asks them to collect garbage all over the country ;)

    • avatar

      Garbage collection is a local responsibility (usually subcontracted), so they can use it. I like the municipality’s creativity. :)

    • avatar

      the greens are against animals because they produce gases as well … the greens are actually against biology, physics and chemistry

    • avatar

      but then when everyone switches to using horse carriages, the gov’t will tax the methane gas the horse produce and the unsanitary poop left on the roads. It’s hard enough now to get dog owners to pick-up their dog’s poop off the sidewalks.

  10. avatar

    I believe that many businesses could use Video conferencing more rather than flying to meet people. Yes it is better to meet in person, but business should still function almost as smoothly without the costs of time, flying expenses and of course pollution etc… However holiday makers / tourist deserve to explore the World and flying is practical . ( I use car mostly, but some dislike that also) Cruise Ships are okay but also pollute a lot.

  11. avatar

    Nope I wouldn’t be able to visit my family abroad

  12. avatar

    this would from the green left “How can flying be higher taxed to curb its appeal in the market?”

  13. avatar

    No good network too long travel time, too expensive, there would still have to happen so much, it doesn’t work in a short

  14. avatar

    A climatic catastrophe, which would cause a mass mortality by humans would be the most helpful, from view of the environment. By the way it would support the evolution too. It’s to bad, I see it myself too!

  15. avatar

    Bans on flights at distances of 400 km or less where rail links exist could be an option.

  16. avatar

    We should all stop breathing…. To decrease our carbon print

  17. avatar

    Would you like to stop the drugs morons?

  18. avatar

    Great, back to the life of 1960. But remove airco and 60% of cars. And limit power supply to domestic use. Of course no fruits and vegs from other cointries.

    • avatar

      really? how about crossing seas and oceans? :-)

  19. avatar
    EU Reform- Proactive

    Where can one find “Visionary (political) Leadership” and their inspiring ideas within the EU concept?

    Submitted themes & posed questions should inspire & enlighten its follower ship- not flabbergast, subjugate, confuse or (un)-intentionally brainwash them to prepare its followers to follow one supranational political concept only- intentionally!


    Who within EU politics could be considered inspiring? The EU Council, EP, DE, Friends of Europe, etc…….?

  20. avatar

    Yeah, let‘s travel by train to Australia!

  21. avatar

    If we choose to fly we should at the very minimum offset the emissions (pay for a carbon reduction somewhere else). I have done so for more than 10 years. The thing is, a single flight anywhere will blow anyone’s carbon budget. A yearly, individual Paris-friendly carbon budget stands at about 2 tons per person per year. Roughly one quarter can be assigned to transport ie 500kg (food, goods production and house energy are the other quarters). That’s ONE return flight Brussels-Rome in economy. What we need is private and tradeable carbon accounts perhaps. Once somebody goes over her budget, she needs to buy credits. What do you think?

  22. avatar

    Flights should be taxed to finance trains. It’s absurd that a train ticket cost roughly the same if not more than a flight on most routes. It’s also absurd that to buy a cross border ticket I still in most cases need to go in person at a central train station. Come on Europe.

  23. avatar

    If we stop flying the economies of the med will collapse . The only thing saving some countries is the tourists flying in every day with their euros and pounds from Northern Europe .
    Makes me laugh all these anti capitalist environmentalists , they look at me as if Ive murdered their children as I pull off in the morning in my diesel van than light a bonfire every other night burning the waste from their fecking chicken run .

  24. avatar

    We’ll travel…back in time :)

  25. avatar

    I have never flown to help the environment, but always to get somewhere else.

  26. avatar

    Consume less, recycle, buy local produce, eat less or no animal products, have no children, and you can keep on travelling

  27. avatar

    No we should science the shit out of flying to make it environmentally neutral and we should stop unessesarry traveling like business that can be conducted with Skype. But we should not stop to intigrate, we need to become one world and that only works with traveling

  28. avatar

    Yeeah bring back the old 4 funnel steamers… Classy voyage of 10 days to reach USA from europe… No stress… No mails…

    • avatar

      or let’s not go to hmmerican. Funding trump isn’t usefull.

  29. avatar

    First we should stop eating.

    • avatar

      only meat and animal products ;)

  30. avatar

    Said simple – No. Yet definitely airplane should not be the preferred mode of transportation for distances under 1000 km.

  31. avatar

    Of course not. Thecnology and human intelligence will prevail. Nuclear clean Energy is on the way

  32. avatar

    Shouldn’t we stop breathing to save o2?

    • avatar

      didn’t know you required to fly to survive.

    • avatar

      Depends on how you want to live. For me. I travel for work and for leisure. Travel makes me live and understand other countries and lifestyles. Travel makes me able to compare and see other cultures and believe that I prefer to have my own European culture. Travel allows me to be anywhere in Europe within a few hours, while by road, I would take days. In my college times I traveled by Bus from Portugal to Nederlands, it was 30 hours travel in a charted bus, no stops unless meals and WC. By plane you can do it in 3 hours. That travel carried about 30 people. A plane can carry almost 200. Compare the cost of CO2 per person and check if it’s preferred to do it by bus or plane.

    • avatar

      it’s not about you it’s about the planet. But this is what I mean. All jibbering and no will to save the planet.
      No one cares about your other cultures without a planet. Go visit those cultures that will drown the first if you are so culturally in touch.
      Welcome to the internet. And a planet for our next generations.
      This is change

  33. avatar

    Yes… as soon as the railway provides a serious affordable alternative.

  34. avatar

    Of course not. Should we stop using cars and only bike instead to help the environment? And should we stop biking and just walking? We just have to be responsible and assessing the environmental impacts rightfully. Further on, airplanes CO2 emissions account for just 2% of the total. What you should be asking is if we should ban cruise ships. Because that we definitely do, but it’s too posh for the wealthy to accept it.

  35. avatar

    We should invest in railways, and in more efficient planes, but stop flying altogether is not realistic.

  36. avatar

    Yes, you should. Start by putting all EU institutions in one city, and hold parliament by teleconference or VR.

  37. avatar

    Such a silly question! No. Should we stop using plastics to help the environment? No, but the world needs to police itself better on recycling plastics and not dump them in the ocean. ASEAN members Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand are among the five countries throwing the most plastic waste into oceans, according to a 2015 report co-authored by environmental campaigner Ocean Conservancy. China is the worst offender.

  38. avatar

    Sure. Those private jets are absolutely inefficient.

  39. avatar

    … after 5G communications technology most probably traveling won’t be necessary, in mostly cases…

  40. avatar

    Yes, YOU should stop flying.

  41. avatar

    How much more out of touch do you wanna be?

  42. avatar

    How much more out of touch do you wanna be?

  43. avatar

    I live in Lisbon , my parents friends and family in the Azores. What do you suggest? Teleport?

  44. avatar

    If people can’t stop flying you have to up the price. Sad thing is that the world seems to ignore climate change. Paris or not.
    So all you can do it what you can do. So you won’t have to tell your children that they can go fck themselves.
    The flood is cmmn and people prefer to point fingers than taking action themselves. They are watching while it happens joking or acting though untill it is to late.
    Humanity seems unfit for long term goals. We must tackle this not just for climate change but in general. As in the future (as already with space faring) projects will outlast our lives.

    • avatar

      this is giving a privillege to richest people. making them even more powerful and richer

    • avatar

      atleast we will have a planet to be rich or poor on.
      This is what I mean all jibbering no action. This isn’t about the rich or the poor, if you want climate change to be class war so you won’t have to act then you are not part of the solution. This is about saving the one planet you live on. Afterwards you can do your tax on bilionaires marches. Or you could do them now by giving the right example. As without it it seems we are not moving away from disaster.

    • avatar

      if you dont make the richest ones responsible for all that mess very few will follow you.

    • avatar

      its not a 1 way issue. You have to do both. All you do is doing nothing so you can blame the rich.
      Just because the rich need to do something doesnt mean you dont.
      Besides this it doesnt matter, it appears you are going for a dead planet thanks.
      Very few? Tell that to Greta.
      Besides again it doesnt matter all that do follow will do more then you do.

    • avatar

      what Greta is doing is exactly blaming the richest. and this is the right way.

    • avatar

      she is also vegan and doesnt use a plane.
      She blames while giving the right example instead of just pointing fingers.

  45. avatar

    No, but we should never stop develop us

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