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The Inconvenient Truth About Flying

This Magazine Staff

When our elected officials get around to talking about global warming a lot gets said about reducing emissions from industry, from cars and even from our homes but little or nothing gets said about flying.
Face it whether we like or not flying contributes a lot to climate change. The Suzuki foundation puts the number at somewhere around 5% of global CO2 output while another figure has that number skyrocketing up into the double digits by 2050.
What’s worse the emissions caused by all of those jets winging their way across the country or to your favourite beach spot is two-to-four times worse because they’re being created in the upper atmosphere.
It gets worse. Most emissions from air travel aren’t included in the Kyoto protocol and so the issue has largely flown under the radar (excuse the pun).
Let’s face it this is a large country and most Canadians would rather cram onto an Air Canada flight than do a cross-country drive to Vancouver, or Halifax or Calgary in the middle of winter. Also, those nice Cuban vacations get awfully difficult when flying gets cut out of the transportation equation.
There are a few partial solutions:
1) Shift the financial burdens. Stop bailing out Air Canada and subsidising the airline industry. Instead shift the cash to rail service. Think of how many flights fly from Toronto to Montreal, or Toronto to Ottawa. Imagine if many of these flights were replaced by train trips?
2) Encourage carbon off-setting. Imagine if individuals or whole airlines decided to off-set their emissions?
3) Change your habits. Don’t fly. Take the train, drive (and carpool while you’re at it). Ask yourself whether that flight really is necessary.
Admittedly some of these solutions would wreak havoc on the airline industry. Those airline tickets would also get more expensive but air travel has only been commonplace for the last 30 years or so. Our grandparents lived without it maybe it’s time we thought about living without it again.

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