Thinking about a vacation some place far away?
I read a rather interesting article today called Top 10 green living myths. One of the “myths” the article discussed was the fact that people these days tend to buy new fuel-efficient cars like they’re iPods. This, of course, is a bad idea since actually producing the vehicle is a very CO2 heavy activity. I don’t want to digress too much, but a different article points out that as much as 30% of the total CO2 emissions of a Toyota Prius, based on a 150,000 km long life, are produced during manufacturing and distribution of the vehicle. In other words, unless you drive an awful lot and your current car is a real gas guzzler, chances are switching to a new fuel-efficient car would actually be more harmful in terms of CO2 emissions than staying with your current car.
Now, to get back to the subject at hand, in the same article, the author touched on the CO2 emissions of air travel. I couldn’t quite believe what I read so I researched it some more. The CO2 emissions of one passenger on a passenger jet is roughly equivalent to the emissions should the passenger instead travel by car (roughly). However, due to the effect known as “radiative forcing”, the actual impact of emissions from a plane is higher due to the altitude at which it flies. I won’t go into detail about this because frankly, I don’t understand it. However, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, who recently was awarded the Nobel Prize, uses a multiplier of 2.7. In other words, if traveling by plane gives you a gas mileage of 20 MPG, the effective MPG is 2.7 times less than that.
Calculating the CO2 emissions of air travel is a pain, but thankfully, there’s an online calculator at Atmosfair.de.
A common tourist destination for Swedes is Phuket in Thailand (for some odd reason). It’s roughly 9000 kilometers away if traveling from the south of Sweden. I fed in the departure and arrival airports (Copenhagen-Bangkok-Phuket) and here’s the result.
6.7 tonnes of CO2! As the graph illustrates, one return-flight to Thailand for a Swede is the equivalent of driving your average car 12,000 km per year for 3 years. This completely blew me away. Instead of placing too much weight on the CO2 emissions on your next car, maybe you should consider vacationing a little closer to home next time.