What is this new trend of “flight-shaming” and how did it begin?
Flight shaming started in Sweden under the moniker, Flygskam, and was popularized in large part by the teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg.
The movement turns on the idea that flying is something that modern culture should reject based on its sizable carbon footprint. The movement particularly stigmatizes airplane trips that could be replaced with train rides or video conferencing.
While driving alone can have a larger impact on the climate than flying economy class, hopping on a plane generates emissions in a fraction of the time. Whereas most individuals would have a hard time driving 100,000 miles a year in a car, such a total is not inconceivable for someone who travels for work.
Given how prolific flight travel is in the world, do we really expect people to cut back to an extent that it makes a difference?
It’s hard to know what the future will bring. Industry figures suggest that air travel will increase dramatically in coming years, a scenario that has prompted some to call for investment in carbon offsets to reduce deforestation and other environmental projects.
However, it’s clear that some aviation leaders are nervous about the trend, which has picked up significant momentum in Europe. As the climate crisis worsens, it’s entirely conceivable that public pressure to avoid flying builds to a point that’s hard to imagine from today’s vantage.
Where does California stand in efforts to battle global warning? What has the California Air Resources been looking at and why is it considered innovative?
The state is seen as a leader on climate change, especially when compared to the rest of the United States. Many countries, from Canada to Norway, tax carbon emissions. California doesn’t go that far but it does have a cap-and-trade program considered largely effective.
As part of that effort, California helped launch a North American carbon offset program that’s regarded as one of the best in the world. Now, it’s considering whether to release a blueprint that corporate polluters could use to offset emissions in exchange for funding efforts to slow tropical deforests in places such as South America, Africa and Southeast Asia.
How do carbon credits work and how can anyone ensure that the money going into these projects will actually save protected areas like the Amazon?
For every carbon offset credit purchases by, say an airline company, one ton of greenhouse gas is ostensibly prevented from entering into the atmosphere.
In practice, the use of offsets has been hard to regulate. The U.N.’s approach to offsets has been to audit offset-funded projects to ensure they wouldn’t have happened without the cash infusions.
However, this has been hard to determine and many instances have been documented where offset program resulted in land grabs and schemes to generate greenhouse gas emissions simply to eliminate them for money.
California has taken a different approach, crediting efforts in a specific area that are greener than an industry average. A dairy farmer, for example, who runs a generator using captured methane that would’ve otherwise wafted off pools of cow manure, can get paid for running a greener operation than a regional average.
While this approach limits opportunities to cheat the system, it merely sidesteps the hard problem of proving that emissions reduction are the direct result of offset payments.
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