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  • Writer's pictureGunnar Garfors

We need to fly more for the climate

Updated: Dec 28, 2023



Don't stay at home out of concern for the climate.

 

Climate hysteria has literally taken off, just like the airplanes we are shamed for using.

Not unexpectedly, it is neither constructive nor effective to project shame. It doesn’t work either when it comes to body shape, dialect, choice of life partner or whether or not to put pineapple on pizza.


Maybe time to retire flying shame too? Not least because we should actually fly more for the sake of the climate.


It doesn't sound particularly logical, but let me try to explain:

 

The elephant in the room when it comes to our climate is the world's defense sector. Climate emissions related to the operation of all military forces are exempt from the Kyoto and Paris agreements. A gigantic loophole. The argument is that such information can reveal military secrets and the relative strengths between the great military powers.

Estimates vary, but we are talking about between 6 and 13.5 per cent of the world's emissions.


We have just left the most peaceful era in modern history, the first 22 years of this century. Since then, it has exploded in Ukraine, Sudan and Palestine. The first year of the war around the Dnipro river, for example, led to 155 million tonnes of new greenhouse gases. This is 48 per cent of the increase in global emissions from the previous year.


In addition, there will be pollution related to reconstructing Ukraine after the war.

 

Fear of The Russian Bear has simultaneously lead to rearmament in large parts of the world, including on the Russian-friendly side. Never has more money been spent on bombs and grenades. 2,5 trillion USD is 50 per cent more than the entire Norwegian oil fund.

 

The need for reconciliation between nations, people and cultures is precarious and we must work hard and actively to get the world back to pre-Putin aggressive levels. Calls for ever-larger defense budgets must become history as soon as possible. There will be a time after the KGB dictator too.


Unfortunately, it is not enough to just put pressure on authorities. Many countries are led by strong men with big egos and a high degree of control over their people.


It's time to harness consumer power to the extreme. You and I must take responsibility and book longer and fewer flights, not more.

 

We have to travel more outside the western bubble we live in, a safe playground blessed with well-functioning infrastructure, good forms of governance, high average salaries, long holidays and strong passports to understand other cultures, to see ourselves from the outside, to form friendships, to counter hostility, to build trade cooperation and to lower our shoulders.

 

In 2020, it would have been enough to build bridges to achieve this. After years of warmongering on steroids, we must first clear footpaths, repair village roads and plan motorways.


Better communication and closer friendships across borders will help lower the level of conflict between us and the unknown, the slightly scary countries we don't actually know much about. Inside the bubble, in the Western world, we are pretty satisfied and well reconciled.


Instead of making NATO increasingly threatening to those who are not allowed to join, or imposing our values on others through soft power, we as ordinary citizens must take responsibility and reach out to like-minded people in Congo, Kiribati or Russia.


Once there, even shy Norwegian need to build courage to make contact with those who live there. Because if we don't participate in conversations and activities together with locals, our trips are reduced to pure observational stays that will lead to nothing but extra likes on Instagram or TikTok -  from people at home.


Interaction, cooperation and solidarity are essential, and cannot be outsourced to politicians and others who don’t pay for their own journeys.

 

As a bonus, each long-distance kilometer pollutes far less than if there is a short time between departure and arrival. Aviation fuel burns faster uphill.


But by all means, while we wait for electric jumbo jets, planes still emit exhaust and cause misery. About as much as the internet does, but only half of the textile industry, a quarter of the emissions from meat production or as little as a seventh of the world's military powers.

Airline passengers also pay environmental fees that cyber trolls, bargain hunters, meat eaters or snipers do not.

 

I am not focusing on non-travel-related emissions to clear my conscience. The essential thing is to contribute to change across the board; to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and raise awareness within all industries.

 

If the world's politicians put down an international ban on flying tomorrow, we will eliminate a measly 2 percent of climate emissions. If we instead cut 20–40 per cent within meat production, defence, fashion, factory production, Facebook usage and flying, then the CO2 amounts will be reduced ten to twenty times as much.


When we do travel by plane, it should be longhaul to build friendships in far-flung countries. Then we would rather stimulate local hotel and restaurant owners in Bujumbura than billionaires who own chains in Berlin.


Traveling off the beaten track is better in so many ways than a dozen weekend trips a year to New York, Paris and London.


And in between the exotic destinations, we may just as well eat at eminent restaurants and take advantage of innovative accommodation options at home instead of going on weekend trips to western cities.


This commentary was first published in Norwegian for Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation NRK.



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