Christie Aschwanden, Eco-Terrorist?
Any new technology brings with it both positive and negative aspects. Sometimes the negative, or the positive, aspects of a particular technology are ignored. Christie Aschwanden ignored the negative aspects of one particular technology, and admitted as such:
I would never commute to work in a Hummer, leave the house with all the lights on, or send my recyclables to a landfill, and yet, for most of my life, I proudly engaged in an activity far worse for the environment than any of these other eco-sins….
Before I reveal Aschwanden’s eco-sin, I would encourage you to sit down. You will be shocked at the activity that she enjoyed throughout her life.
…I jetted around the world.
Eco-terrorism? Look at the numbers:
A nonstop flight from San Francisco to New York puts you on the hook for 2.23 tons of carbon dioxide. Fly first class, and the extra space you occupy bumps you to 5.59 tons—more than twice the 2.2 tons you’d emit driving a midrange car 7,500 miles. It’s not just aviation’s carbon emissions that make it so bad for the climate, it’s also factors like vapor trails and ozone as well as where a jet’s emissions occur—in a sensitive part of the atmosphere where their effects become magnified. Scientists call this effect “radiative forcing” and calculations that don’t include it can make flying seem deceptively benign. Don’t be fooled: Every time you get on an airplane, you’re helping to shove a Bangladeshi’s home under water.
She then shares the following observation:
[I]t’s easy to act like an environmentalist when it means buying cool new stuff like reusable grocery bags, a high-efficiency washer, or a hybrid car. When doing the green thing requires actual sacrifice or a substantial change in lifestyle, well, that’s where most of us draw the line.
For Aschwanden’s additional observations, including what she learned by staying within 100 miles of her house for an entire year, read the rest of the article. You may also want to read Pradheep Shanker’s share of a related Bloomberg article.
Aschwanden is not the only person talking about airplane pollution in general, and radiative forcing in particular. CNN:
The airplane has become, for many, climate change public enemy number one. And for good reason, say environmentalists. The air travel sector now carries the label of “the world’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gases” according to Friends of the Earth (FoE), with airplanes pumping out more than 600 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) every year. That’s nearly as much CO2 as the African continent annually expels.
The aviation industry’s official contribution to the world’s greenhouse gas emissions tally, however, gives a very different impression. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the U.N.’s International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), aviation globally only accounts for around 3 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.
That figure has environmentalist up in arms. They say it fails to take into account a process known as radiative forcing, where the impact of emissions from planes in the upper atmosphere — according to the UK-based Aviation Environmental Federation (AEF) — are greater by a factor of 2.7 — or more. Once radiative forcing has has been factored in, the total contribution of aviation to greenhouse gas emissions looks more like 12 percent to 13 percent.
We live in complex times.