Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Air Travel Carbon Offsetting: Making Civil Aviation More Environmentally Friendly?

Even though less than half of the world’s airlines offer carbon offsetting, does the practice really offer genuine environmental benefits?

By: Ringo Bones

With our global climate about to reach the point of no return when it comes to the ongoing climate change issue, it seems that every possible scheme has been on offer by every commercial and industrial sector to save us from climate catastrophe. Even though the airline industry forms just 2-percent of overall man-made green house gas emissions, it has become one of the most criticized for not doing enough to clean up its act. So clean up it did. One of these schemes is called carbon offsetting, but does it really work? But first, here’s a brief primer on carbon offsetting.

Carbon offsetting is the process of compensating for greenhouse gas emissions through schemes that are designed to make corresponding reductions in emissions from other parts of the economy. From donating to wind farms to replanting or protecting parcels of forest in at-risk areas, these offset programs offer a diverse amount of options for air travelers. Whilst it seems a fairly straightforward system that ensures you are making the sustainable decision transport-wise, it has drawn a fair share of condemnation from environmentalists.

On delving deeper into the definition of carbon offsets, it becomes clear why airline offset schemes have become controversial. Balancing the carbon dioxide emitted by your air travel through the planting of several trees in South America does not involve the solitary act of placing a tree in the soil. In order to plant the trees, there are several steps. Firstly, the trees must be bought from a supplier, transported to a warehouse before being driven out to the tree planting site that also needs to be prepared prior to the tree seedlings being planted – all of these actions produce their own share of carbon dioxide emissions, which are not always taken into account. If your tree planting offset scheme produces more carbon dioxide emissions than your flight – or by not buying any emissions offset at all – then it is really not an offset.

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