We take many things once regarded as miraculous as everyday. We take almost unlimited access to TV channels for granted. We, or at least most of us, have more food than we need. If we get one of those nasty, once-fatal infections, antibiotics restore equilibrium. We regard air travel as a right.
Estimates of how many of us use air transport vary, the
lowest suggests only around 5% of the world’s population have flown but none suggest more than 18% have flown.
Yet, this minority make a disproportionate contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. The European Commission says emissions from aviation account for about 3% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions and more than 2% globally. If aviation was a country, it would be a top-10 polluter. Flying from Dublin to New York and back generates roughly the same level of emissions as the average European does heating their home for a year. Some air travel is essential but a huge
proportion of it is leisure-based. This is unsustainable as we are polluting ourselves towards extinction.
The time has come to ration air miles and impose an escalating levy on any used beyond a limit. The usual voices will shout this down — for the moment anyway — but it seems a sensible response to the carbon emissions crisis and one that taxes the rich to the benefit of the world’s majority who have never flown. Social justice and climate action in one measure — or as Peta would not express it: Two birds with one stone.