Flight Hangover

When I was a little kid, I loved to travel and see new places. My father worked at the airport, and so it seemed only natural to fly to places during holidays. I remember we took two transatlantic flights and later mimicked the „Thank you for flying Ammmerican Airlines“ of the on-board video.

In 1994, at age 16, I hopped on a one-way trip to Boston to spend some time in Massachusetts. The location was completely out of my mind’s range. Massachusetts? Never heard of it. Yet it took only a few hours to get to Logan airport in Boston and from there to the rural, soft New England hills. Thousands of kilometres away, but accessible in a day thanks to that metal cabin over the clouds. My favorite class at the school was, ironically, ecology.

This week, delegates from allover the world flew to Doha to meet at the climate change summit. I stumbled upon an article by Laura Cowen on her 2010 „No-fly year“. She writes:

„The single most significant thing an individual can do to reduce their impact on climate change is to stop flying.“

In the article, Laura Cowen calculates her CO2 emissions of past year’s flights. Curious about how my travels add up, I calculated my flight CO2-emissions from that first solo trip until today.

The results, calculated on atmosfair’s website, are pretty staggering. According to the site, the climate friendly CO2 budget of one person is 3000 kg CO2 equivalent per year. As you can see, I am way beyond that:

Flight CO2 emissions in kg from 1994 to 2012

My flight footprint makes Laura Cowen’s look small. I did not fly every year, but when I did, I really did. My emissions from 1994 to 2012 total at 45303 kg.

On average, I’ve contributed almost 2400 kg of CO2 each year in the past 19 years – by flying only. Now add heating, other kinds of transport, products such as clothing, food, electrical devices and so forth, and I’ll probably surpass the budget by far. I don’t think even the fact that I’ve never owned a car can make up for that. To „offset“ my flights at atmosfair costs 1181 Euros. I guess I gotta start saving up. It’s time for more than just one no-fly year.

Looking at this chart, I really wonder: Why doesn’t anyone ask me about this? I have to hand in detailed paperwork on my income and taxes to the government, but nobody ever asks me about my flights‘ carbon footprint. Isn’t that weird?

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