Flights should be strictly rationed in support of the fight against climate change, according to a leading environmentalist.
As the world hurtles towards the crucial 1.5C climate threshold, and extreme weather events become ever-more common around the world, the global aviation industry continues to prosper.
Flying is the fastest-growing source of emissions in the world – with aviation currently responsible for around 2.5% of the world’s CO2 emissions.
When other gases produced by aircraft are taken into account, the industry is responsible for around 5% of global emissions.
That is in a world where only a tiny proportion of the population flies regularly – with studies showing that, even in richer countries, only around half the population flies once in any given year and just 12 - 15% are frequent fliers.
France last month banned domestic short-haul flights on routes where train alternatives exist – with French consumer groups warning that a flight emits around 77 times more CO2 per passenger than the train on those routes.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, environmental journalist John Gibbons said Ireland is responsible for an “incredible level of aviation”.
“Irish people are probably among the world’s highest in terms of regular flying,” he said.
“You might say, ‘Well, yes, we are on an island,’ and so on and so forth but the fact is that nine out of ten of the world’s population have never set foot in an aircraft and will never set foot in an aircraft.
“Aviation, hour-for-hour is probably the most climate-damaging thing any of us can do.”
Mr Gibbons noted that the lack of taxes on aviation fuel has allowed airlines to offer super-cheap flights which in turn has “stoked massive demand and really overuse for what is a very valuable resource”.
Nice to be labelled a "numpty tree-hugger" live on @NTBreakfast just now for suggesting we need to rein in the aviation sector.
Great we can finally have a grown-up conversation about the #ClimateEmergency 🙃
— John Gibbons (@think_or_swim) June 22, 2023
He said everyone should get a personal air-miles ration, linked to their PPS or passport number.
Mr Gibbons suggested a figure of 1500km per year, per person – enough to get you from Dublin to Paris and back.
Passengers could then pay a €200 levy for their next 1,500km, which could be used to offset the carbon costs associated with the flight.
This is absolutely bananas.
There is NOTHING like this on the instrumental record. Its likely impact is probably immeasurable.
But is it leading our news bulletins & on newspaper front pages?
— John Gibbons (@think_or_swim) June 21, 2023
Mr Gibbons admitted that the proposal would be highly unpopular – but warned that we have to remember we are in a climate emergency.
“It is difficult, but we are in an emergency situation here,” he said.
“The North Atlantic is heating up at an insane rate – an absolutely insane rate. We don’t know what is in store for us even in 2023, never mind in 2024.
“The question for us really is, what do we do?”
“Every flight you take is killing people"
He rejected the suggestion his idea was “crazy” – warning that we have got to the point in 2023 where it is “impossible to have a serious conversation about the climate emergency”.
“What I am suggesting here is a very modest proposal,” he said.
“This won’t kill anybody. It will discommode some people but what it will mostly do is save lives over time.
“Aviation, as a source of emissions, is the fastest growing source of emission worldwide.
“Every flight you take is killing people in the future – people don’t want to hear it, but that is the reality.
“If that knowledge disturbs you the best thing to do is to pretend we don’t understand the climate emergency.
“I think a lot of us are doing a great job at pretending we don’t understand it because of course when we understand it then we have to act so it is much better to pretend we don’t get it.”
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