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The CO2 'Conspiracy', Flying, Hypocrisy and Me

Updated: Jun 20, 2020

This is not a conspiracy about airlines or governments or big corporations, it is a more subtle one about all of us and all the things we do in our lives.

We are thinking about booking a long-haul holiday at the end of 2021. We have missed out this year for obvious reasons, it has not been a great year otherwise and we could really do with something to look forward to. However, the inconvenient truth is that air travel means a lot of CO2 emissions. To give some kind of context the return flight for the four of us, flying economy will mean about 10 tons of CO2 emissions, that is more than twice our 'average' petrol car uses in a year.

Without becoming bogged down in the science and the debate in a short blog, most people agree to a greater or lesser extent, that reducing CO2 emissions would be a good thing. The problem is it's very difficult to talk about CO2 emissions without being a hypocrite, especially if you live in a developed economy. I can't say to someone; "you could drive a smaller car and stop eating of red meat like me". Because they can say; "you go on long-haul flights, whereas I go camping locally". This can all lead to a conspiracy of silence and lethargy where we don't make any changes.

Think of it like that tin of chocolates that gets handed round on Christmas Day, we all have some, then just one more and before long the tin is empty. However, nobody can say anything because we are all complicit. However, maybe it is time to stop worrying about hypocrisy and start worrying about climate change. If we switch the analogy back to CO2 emissions, then I am not telling anyone they can't do specific things, but suggesting that they don't keep doing everything.

With some ball-park estimates what would we have to do as a family to compensate for the 10 tons of carbon emissions caused by that long haul flight for four?

First fly direct and choose an airline that uses more fuel efficient modern airliners, we will give ourselves 1 ton back for that. Switch to an electric car, that will save 2 tons per year, switch to renewable energy 1.5 tons per year. Flexitarian diet - vegan 4 days a week and only one portion of red meat per week - 4 tons. Finally decide not to get a dog after all - 2 tons per year.

So at this point I can see lots of complaints from; on the one hand people saying that is not the idea to save lots of carbon and then 'blow it' on a long haul flight, while at the same time drawing the ire of people who love their dog and like their exotic holidays. However, I am not saying get rid of your dog or you don't go on holiday. What I am saying is we all want to enjoy our lives and do things that are not essential; just try and do something to change, be strategic about your choices are and be aware of what those choices are costing and saving. I need to appreciate how much of a 'treat' that long-haul flight is and not do it every year. So I will hold my hands up and say; yes at times I am a 'carbon hypocrite', but I am not going to let that stop that me doing something significant about my contributions to CO2 emissions in other ways, or for that matter eating sweets from the Christmas tin!

Sources below

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