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Everything Should Be Made As Uncomfortable As Possible, But No Less Comfortable

Written By: - Date published: 7:01 am, April 24th, 2019 - 26 comments
Categories: business, climate change, Deep stuff, Environment, ETS, james shaw, parliamentary spending, public transport, sustainability, tourism, transport - Tags: , , , , ,

The aviation industry are (the) bad guys, right? They charge us an arm and a leg to get us to our well-deserved holiday destinations, cram us into a cabin like sardines in a tin and they are major contributors of global CO2 emissions.

To entice more people flying more air miles – “occupancy rates” is the technical term – airlines come up with all sorts of things to be able to provide a “more customised passenger experience”. They want us to “feel at home”, to give us more comfort (“even in Economy”), spray nice smells through the cabin (my favourite would be the smell of a warm wood fire with a glass of mulled wine on a cold Winter’s night) “promising greater passenger comfort”, and, of course, better and more personalised in-flight entertainment (where have I heard this before?), to just list a few.

This will do nothing to combat climate change and I was going to write a flippant post arguing that airlines should make the whole experience as uncomfortable as possible, especially in Business and First Class, to discourage people from flying. And airports should emulate Public Transport. For example: cold, boring, uncomfortable shelters for waiting passengers; long queues; horrible music in the waiting areas; food halls that rival those in shopping malls and train stations; overpriced parking with a limited number of spaces, preferably more than 10 minutes walking from the nearest covered or indoor space; really shitty or, even better, no connection with (other) PT.

However, that would not have been a constructive post to mitigate climate change and slightly unfair, as it turns out.

Did you know that Air New Zealand has a Customer Carbon Offset Programme called FlyNeutral? Well, I had never heard of it and I did fly with them quite recently. Of course, the programme is on a voluntary basis. Aha, I thought, this is going to cost heaps. After some searching, I found a nifty calculator and a return trip Auckland-Wellington produces this result:

Total distance flown: 960 km
Estimated emissions: 136 kg of CO2
Cost to offset this CO2: NZD$ 3.08

What bothered me is that I did not know about this. Ignorance is no excuse and, lo and behold, there is one article on Stuff.

The emissions for each flight are divided amongst the passenger seats on that flight, and passengers only have to tick the ‘Offset my carbon emissions’ box when booking to pay for their share.

I must have missed that box 🙁 

Digging a little further:

Less than 5 per cent of people opt to pay more, however.

[AirNZ has] also been working hard to get flyers to offset, but has stopped short of going carbon neutral by including offsets with all flights.

For good measure, I also checked the Herald for articles on FlyNeutral. After all, NZ MSM is more or less a duopoly. It appears that FlyNeutral helped AirNZ win the Air Transport World Airline Industry Award of Eco Airline of the Year.

And according to the other one of only two articles:

Government ministers – some of the biggest air travellers – also contribute to the scheme, says [James] Shaw.

Eighty-three per cent of ministerial air travel in 2016 and 2017 was with Air NZ, or affiliated partners, followed by 96 per cent the following year.

Green Party MPs voluntarily offset their air travel through a scheme run outside Parliament and managed by the Green Party.

Other MPs’ travel, which is part of the official Office of the Clerk Inter-parliamentary relations travel programme, is offset too as agreed on after Shaw wrote to the Clerk last year.

The Speaker has also asked Parliamentary Services to investigate how emissions off-set policy can be applied more broadly for all MPs’ air or other travel.

Personally, I think all these initiatives are good but they need bolstering and more public awareness. Stopping short of making the carbon offset compulsory it should be changed into an opt-out rather than opt-in scheme. With less than 5% of all flyers opting-in this seems a logical thing to do. As a bonus, they could give flyers extra Airpoints™.

As you know, I’m no friend of offsetting and I advocate alternative ways of transport and travel like Professor Shaun Hendy. But sometimes air travel is unavoidable, especially when living in New Zealand, and then offsetting is a no-brainer, in my opinion.

Unsurprisingly, others are working hard to increase the uptake of voluntary carbon-offset schemes, which shouldn’t be too hard in the case of AirNZ; a focussed PR campaign with an ex-AB without an aviation license should do it. One such company, CarbonClick, still has to launch their product. Let’s hope it will be compelling.

26 comments on “Everything Should Be Made As Uncomfortable As Possible, But No Less Comfortable”

  1. Ad 1

    16 year old Greta Thunberg doesn't hold back when addressing the UK Parliament on climate change.

    And she got there by electric train.

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/apr/23/greta-thunberg-full-speech-to-mps-you-did-not-act-in-time

    • Jenny - How to get there? 1.1

      The good news is that Greta intends to travel to the United Nations by container ship.

  2. James 2

    its pretty obvious when you book.

    the fact that only iro 5% pay it shows that while most like to handwring on climate change but are unwilling to pay their bit – moaning is for everyone, paying for it is for “others”.

    Situation normal

    • Robert Guyton 2.1

      Does that make 90% of us hypocrites, James?

      Some will be conflicted, not hypocritical; that is, <i> having </i> to fly, despite sincere reservations about doing so.

    • Ad 2.2

      With the cost of fuel about to skyrocket again, I am not for anything that makes it even harder for tourists to get here. Compared to agriculture, they are this nations' low-impact economic salvation.

      • Robert Guyton 2.2.1

        Ya can't eat tourists!

      • schwen 2.2.2

        How can you make that assertion when agriculture consumes only a fraction of the fossil fuel that aviation does? Other than the diesel in tractors, the carbon emmitted by cows etc is part of a carbon cycle that includes the sequestering of carbon by grass, trees and crops. Fossil fuels are the source of most “new” CO2.

    • its pretty obvious when you book.

      I haven't booked my own flights for over a decade, so it hasn't been obvious to me.

      the fact that only iro 5% pay it shows that while most like to handwring on climate change but are unwilling to pay their bit – moaning is for everyone, paying for it is for “others”.

      It's a campaign that says "You can opt to pay more for this service, if you choose." When you think about the level of appeal of that sales pitch, the fact it's managed to hit 5% is impressive.

      Which is why you're spouting bullshit when you go on about handwringing and moaning – people don't choose to pay extra for the sake of doing the right thing, or at least we have evidence that a mere 5% will.

      If we make alleviating climate change voluntary we get the tragedy of the commons, so it has to be done at a government level, eg "Any airline flying in NZ airspace must demonstrate how it's offsetting its carbon emissions." That way the airline has no choice but to recover the cost of offsetting its emissions from the people doing the flying, ie instead of relying on the 5% who are willing to sacrifice for the sake of doing the right thing, and eventually finding we've rendered the place barely habitable for humans, we make everybody contribute – not "others" but "everybody."

      • James 2.3.1

        Which is why you're spouting bullshit when you go on about handwringing and moaning – people don't choose to pay extra for the sake of doing the right thing, or at least we have evidence that a mere 5% will.

        Which proves my point.

        Gutless moaners won’t put their hand in their pocket.

        • Psycho Milt 2.3.1.1

          Putting the tragedy of the commons down to "gutless moaners" might give you some personal satisfaction at the feeling of being superior to others, but doesn't prevent the commons being destroyed. Just for the sake of clarity, the important thing is that the commons isn't destroyed, not that your sense of superiority gets a good feed.

    • lprent 2.4

      its pretty obvious when you book

      I wasn't aware of it until I disposed of some points to book flights for Lyn to Taranaki for filming.

      But that's because I don't fly except for work or family or very occasionally politics. No one has died recently, I have been happy to leave politics to politicians, and work books my flights to sites.

      There have been carbon offsets showing up in my work flights.

      But as pointed out elsewhere it seems trivial compared to the weight of carbon.

      Really need the price of carbon to rise and to include depreciation for manufacture.

  3. Ad 3

    I suspect the big breakthrough innovations will not be in large-range passenger planes (which take decades to develop), but will instead be equivalent to Lime scooters or Uber: small hops. That is where it competes against the car.

    One such all-electric aviation system is already being trialled in New Zealand.

    https://cora.aero/milestones/

  4. Stuart Munro. 4

    It's all rather sanitized. Ticking a box and paying a tiny fee suffices as a response to global warming? It's rather like the large famine charities, distancing the donor from the problems of the world, and often proving not to be as effective as might be hoped.

    Religions traditionally encouraged charitable giving because it could change the giver (aside from their own organizational needs). These second hand responses don't do that, they are epiphenomenal, BAU when it's well established that BAU is the problem.

    I wonder what Greta Thunberg would say about an offset airfare – somehow I doubt her endorsement would be enthusiastic.

    • marty mars 4.1

      + 1 yes – to me it all seems like utter bullshit unless they factor in the manufacture of all the planes, the costs to infrastructure and all the rest of the associated costs to help people get to their overseas holiday. Make flying what it is – an utter waste of resources and just egowank consumerism imo.

  5. Ieuan 5

    The Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) agreement regarding carbon offsetting for international flights comes into effect in 2021. New Zealand has signed up to the agreement, which will affect Air New Zealand.

    This covers international flights so offsetting for domestic flights will still be voluntary for now, but at least it's a step in the right direction.

  6. greywarshark 6

    Are future passengers told in what range the offsetting cost is, that they can opt-in for? I have dismissed it in the past, usually hastening to book the cheapest seat I can find, but would add up to $5 for it. I don't choose my own seat so save $10, I don't buy extra luggage etc. But should and will add in something for the carbon credits when i go to see my family, whose future I am thoughtful about.

  7. SHG 7

    Deckchairs, Titanic.

    • Poission 7.1

      Complex problem

      in the context of intergenerational ethics, another problem

      becomes quite arduous, namely that of assigning preferences to

      future generations: are theirs going to be necessarily the same

      as ours? More likely not! J.H. Ausubel [24] gives an amusing

      example of how the unknown preferences of posterity challenge

      cost-benefit analysis for climate-change issues: “One hundred

      years ago icebergs were a major climatic threat impeding travel

      between North America and Europe. 1513 lives ended when

      the British liner Titanic collided with one on 14 April 1912.

      50 years later jets overflew liners. Anticipating the solution to

      the iceberg danger required understanding not only the rates

      and paths on which icebergs travel but the ways humans travel,too.

      https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167278908000481

  8. New view 8

    The problem with off setting the carbon from aircraft with a charge is that the carbon is still in going in the atmosphere. Tons of it. The money no doubt going to find ways keeping carbon out of the atmosphere but at the same time giving the aviation industry license to keep doing what they’re doing without the guilt. Other industries, eg farming are going to be punished for their filthy fart gases and are made to look like scum while the aviation industry is let off the hook. Why, because we mustn’t stop people flying. That would never do.

    • According to Air NZ, the money goes into planting trees, which are a carbon sink. Of course, it’s only “net zero” for the exhaust emissions, and even then only net zero if all passengers opt to pay the carbon offset, which is why making it a voluntary charge renders it useless.

      • New view 8.1.1

        I’m just guessing we face the problem again when the trees are cut down, apart from planting more trees. Sooner or later we have to find another solution. My issue is that a lot of people think we can’t do without aircraft but can do without farming. A generalisation I know but just making a point.

  9. Pat 9

    NZ uses 22000 barrels or 3.5 million litres of aviation fuel per day (1.2 billion litres a year)….if each litre produces 2.2 kg of CO2 ( not counting the forcing effect of high altitude) and a hectare of trees absorbs around 10 tonnes CO2 per annum we need to plant 220000 hectares per annum in NEW trees….or 1/120 of our land area per year.
    Offsetting??

    • Pat 9.1

      ooops…one too many zeros…around 26000 hectares per annum….or 1/1000 th of our land area….and thats an annual increase of over 3% of existing forrestry

  10. Jenny - How to get there? 10

    Nature

    CARBON OFFSETTING IS WITHOUT SCIENTIFIC LEGITIMACY AND IS DANGEROUSLY MISLEADING.

    https://www.nature.com/polopoly_fs/1.10373!/menu/main/topColumns/topLeftColumn/pdf/484007a.pdf

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