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Maybe we shouldn’t take the plane

Written By: - Date published: 6:21 am, August 8th, 2019 - 84 comments
Categories: climate change, Environment, sustainability - Tags: , , , ,

Yesterday Advantage wrote about whether stopping flying had much meaning in a climate change world, especially for New Zealand.

Maybe flying accounts for 5% of global carbon emissions, maybe 2%. It’s hardly a major

Leaders at the forefront of Climate Action say flying isn’t just about the carbon emissions from that one flight but instead it’s to do with the GHG emissions from the whole trip (flying, ground transport, accommodation, meals etc), and all the associated infrastructure and energy needed for that. Flying also increases the demand for new airports, which to be financially viable need more flights, then more runways, support infrastructure and so on it goes.

Unlike other forms of energy use, there is no emerging technology to easily or economically replace aviation fuel. At some point flying will need to be reserved for critical services or rare occasions, so this is something we can prepare for and do now to shift away from fossil-fuel dependency. This is especially challenging for New Zealanders who live so far from land transport options internationally, but we still have choices, especially domestically.

Australian sustainability designer and teacher David Holmgren discusses the need for systems thinking approaches, and reflects on integrity,

I found this essay Hypocrites in the air: should climate change academics lead by example?  by Kevin Anderson very refreshing because it clarified some of the systemic issues that climate scientists and activists should well understand.  In particular he shows how speed and convenience of air travel massively increase the distance, and shorten the duration, of travel resulting in a massive increase in greenhouse gas emissions that would simply not happen if people had to travel by train. It is this convenience and bargain basement prices, more than any measure of greenhouse gas emissions per person kilometre, that exemplifies the need for systems thinking rather than reductionist metrics.

[my emphasis]

Drawing on sustainability design principles he applies them to travel,

The principle of Small and Slow Solutions suggests that when we do go far and/or fast we should get and contribute maximum value.  The principles of diversity and integration suggest we should be focused on multiple values and functions in everything we do but especially in high powered, high impact activity.

So why not continue to fly overseas using this model? After all isn’t my work around the world the most important contribution I can make to a better world?  While I can see the beneficial outcomes of my overseas travel,  I also believe that much of the power of my presentations, teaching and influence comes from the modest home based self reliant way of living that informs my work.  There is little doubt I could have more influence over more people by travelling more but I believe the less I travel the greater the integrity and quality of my influence when I do.

Perhaps most importantly, Holmgren makes this point in a Peak Oil context as well,

Beyond GGEs  I see the depletion of precious high quality transport fuel as a additional debt that needs to be justified by the value of what is achieved by the travel.

We only have so much cheap oil left, what are the ethics of using it up profligately?

Holmgren describes how he travelled within those frameworks and ethics. The cases against flying are also made by climate change scientist and advisor Kevin Anderson and environmental and political activist/writer George Monbiot.


Prevention of climate catastrophe requires us to change, sometimes significantly. New Zealand will have to transition its economy off mass tourism, a reality that we’ve barely begun to even talk about.  Changing our domestic travel habits will be more straight forward, it’s not so long ago that we often used to travel by train. Holmgren has some good stuff on relearning that it’s ok to take time to travel, how to do it well, and that there are substantial personal benefits.

Lessening international flights will require a bigger change for some. Less business flights and more internet meetings isn’t too hard. The increasing numbers of people who have family overseas are going to need to rethink some fundamentals about the lives they are living.

Most of this post was previously published in Climate Change Actions for the Middle Classes.


The Southerner


Photo from Coastal Pacific

84 comments on “Maybe we shouldn’t take the plane”

  1. Andre 1

    The way international travel (and shipping) is exempt from taxes that apply to most other activities also contributes to greater use of longer travel modes than would happen if these hidden subsidies were removed.


  2. NZ's tyranny of distance has been overcome by ships before and could be again easily enough. Hell, it's within living memory that flying to New Zealand was something only for the very wealthy – I remember my grandma visiting us by ship from the UK in 1968, which is only 51 years ago.  Nuclear-powered ships are low-emission vehicles and can be a lot faster than the ships of 70 years ago if we want them to be.

  3. Robert Guyton 3

    I've stopped.

  4. Ad 4

    Buy a carbon credit through your airline and sip the martini. On AirNZ you can GPS locate the trees you planted.

    And only those who can fly can afford to convert their cars to electric.

    Climate change is being led by the bourgeoisie. So let them.

    • Molly 4.1

      … does the GPS also show you places in the world where your emissions are contributing towards disrupting lives and communities? 

      Especially those where carbon emissions are currently low per capita, but are needed to speedily improve infrastructure and services.

      Climate change and climate justice/equality really need to be considered and discussed in unison.

      How many emissions are we going to hoard/utilise knowing that many who have not contributed to the situation are still living subsistence lives, and will be those that are least able to adapt?  And once again pay the higher costs – and I'm not just talking about carbon offsets here.

    • Robert Guyton 4.2

      Sure, let them lead. Then do whatever you can to help.

    • bwaghorn 4.3

      What a load of shit.  

    • bwaghorn 4.4

      Just did a quick Google. 

      Approx numbers are 

      1 tree living to 40 to offset 1 persons flight. 

      Over 3 billion flights a year . 

      1000 trees to the hectare equals 30 million hectares per year . 

      Enjoy your after work martini.

      • weka 4.4.1

        not sure about the discrepancy between line 1 and 2, but yep, it's not even close to being rational to think that offsetting will solve climate change. The only reason we have it is because capitalists realised they needed to do *something. It's not like it's a good solution.

        • bwaghorn

          3 billion seperate passenger flights .  Not planes flights . 

          • weka

            thanks for the maths. It really supports what Holmgren is saying about the limits of reductionism compared to systems thinking.

  5. Booker 5

    Truly a bizarre post yesterday. I had to check whether it was April 1st.

    I didn’t get time to respond to Advantage, so I’ll put it here:

    If you fly internationally, that one flight will be the biggest contributor to carbon you make in the year – more than the carbon cost of the food you eat, more than your car use.

    The post yesterday was saying “it doesn’t contribute much” or “air travel isn’t going to become electric anytime soon” and therefore we should just keep doing it. How is that any different to the standard National party talking points on climate change?

    We’ve clearly reached a point where, even if you don’t stop flying completely, you need to really think through whether the flight is absolutely necessary, whether it’s worth it and whether there are alternative forms of transport or alternative forms of communication that would suffice. Is flying convenient? Sure. But it’s one of the most carbon intensive activities of modern life and pretending it isn’t doesn’t cut it.

    • tc 5.1

      Jumbo's (still plenty about in cargo) stick a ton carbon/hour into the atmosphere a flight engineer told me. Unsure what the modern twin engine jobs are like.

      The skies around china have been full of them jetting tech etc in and out for decades now. It's not a stat the airline industry wants focus on.

      Lynn’s made the point below about it’s position in the Gravity stack.

      • Andre 5.1.1

        A quick look at wikipedia sez a 747-400 ER has a fuel capacity a bit over 200 tons and a maximum range that would take about 15 hours to fly. So that's around 12 or 13 tons/hour. Of fuel. CO2 emissions is around 3 times that.

    • Phil 5.2

      one of the most carbon intensive activities of modern life and pretending it isn’t doesn’t cut it.


      A 747 is transporting 500 people 1 mile using 5 gallons of fuel. That means the plane is burning 0.01 gallons per person per mile. In other words, the plane is getting 100 miles per gallon per person! The typical car gets about 25 miles per gallon.

  6. mango 6

    That quote from Kevin Anderson hits the nail on the head. It's not just the low cost but the speed of air travel that increases energy use. It used to take two and a half days to cross the Tasman so you couldn't go to Sydney for the weekend even if you wanted to. The time taken was as much of a barrier as the cost of travel. Similarly Europe was at least four weeks travel away from Australasia. It is a real question weather a ship could be built that is more fuel efficient than current aircraft. Current cruise ships are notoriously fuel hungry because they are effectively floating hotels and the last generation of true ocean liners were built in a time when fuel was cheap and speed was the priority. Perhaps something based on the "Southern Cross" with modern engines might work but I don't have the numbers to make a comment. 

    • Andre 6.1

      This the Southern Cross you're talking about?


      Looks quite inefficient in terms of fuel use for moving passengers.

      1000 passengers burning 3.7 tonnes/hr at 16.7 knots. That's roughly one litre of fuel moves one passenger 8 km. That's worse than most modern cars carrying just the driver.

      In comparison, modern long haul aircraft are around one litre moves one passenger 33 km, with the best newest planes going over 40 passenger-km/litre.


      Ships look unlikely to be a lower emissions way to move people long distances than planes until ships go to some kind of non GHG-emitting propulsion. I'd put my money on that becoming nukes.

      • mango 6.1.1

        Yep that's the one. My point was that it would be challenging to to build a ship that could match current aircraft although to be fair the southern cross used 1950's era steam turbines and modern diesels would be much better. As for nukes I personally don't think that failed technology will be playing much of a role in the future but that is a whole other issue.

      • lprent 6.1.2

        The problem with measuring emissions by volume or weight as Ad did yesterday is that it is a scientifically retarded way of looking at the problem. With greenhouse gas emissions often the real issue is where they’re released.

        In this case the position is 10kms up in our gravitational stack. The persistence time of CO2 (and water vapour and everything else) when released there will be more decades before partial or full sequestration than it is further down in the stack.

        There is a virtually unreadable summary about the issues and what is known from the IPCC –

        For me, the takeout from it was that (as usual) there wasn’t enough known about the effects of greenhouse and other gases pushed into the edge between troposphere and stratosphere where most passenger aircraft fly. There was a over reliance on mere RF physics and a massive lack of data on the residence times of greenhouse gases that actually drive the real world.

        In other words, and purely by way of an example, it isn’t the presence of radioactives that kills you. It is the lack of chelating response that would remove the radioactives from your body that will kill you. It isn’t that much different with greenhouse gases.

        In this case that lack of data was clearly expressed when you looked closely at the confidence levels – which were appalling. Even mediocre gamblers wouldn’t bet on this (unless they were tossing the risk on to suckers in the future who couldn’t argue).

        But what was clear was that given a known problem with greenhouse gas emissions and an industry growing that creates them in an area where there is very limited real data on their effect – it isn’t a safe area for expansion.

        • Andre

          When I see plots of CO2 or methane concentrations with altitude and find they're fairly close to constant, I infer that mixing times for those gases are relatively short compared to their residence time.

          The first couple of hits I found directly stating a mixing time said about a year to thoroughly mix a local release of something throughout the atmosphere. So for these long lived gases of similar buoyancy to air, looks to me like the altitude they're emitted only makes a small difference to their total effect. So the total amount emitted is by far the most important factor. Always open to being persuaded by evidence and a good argument, though.

          However, for exhaust emissions like particulates or water vapour that have a short residence time, then yeah, it seems very plausible that the altitude of emission has a large affect on how warming they are.

          If we were ever to get to a widespread hydrogen economy (can't see it), I can't help wondering if there would be a big difference in the effects from fugitive emissions at ground level and at altitude on the ozone layer.

    • Jenny - How to Get there? 6.2

      …..the last generation of true ocean liners were built in a time when fuel was cheap and speed was the priority. Perhaps something based on the "Southern Cross" with modern engines might work but I don't have the numbers to make a comment. 


      Hi Mango, The new updated version of the high speed passenger liners of old is powered by 'modified jet engines' that runs on Liquified Natural Gas a (relatively) low emissions fossil fuel, unsuitable for aircraft because of the weight of the huge pressure vessels needed to contain this highly pressurised fuel.

      Meet the new Southern Cross, HMNZS The Greta Thunberg

  7. Jenny - How to Get there? 7

    A serious assault on air travel will have consequences

    We need to look into this abyss.

    The first consequence will be the collapse/bankruptcy of part government owned Air New Zealand followed by hundreds of redundancies.

    Further downsizing of air travel, will see major layoffs in all the supporting industries. Auckland International Airport, for instance is the single biggest employer in the Auckland region.

    Sooner or later if we do nothing this collapse will come anyway.

    We need to start using some of the profits derived from Air New Zealand to launch an Incat link to Australia. 

    The Incat vessels are driven by gas turbines, which are essentially large jet engines, their maintenance and upkeep will keep the Air New Zealand engineering crews in work.|

    All flights into New Zealand need to taxed to pay for the Incat service so that it can provide discounted fares far cheaper than an air ticket over the cross Tasman route.

    New Zealand will have to transition its economy off mass tourism


    Not necessarily.

    If tourists want to continue to come here, and I suspect they will. If they are wealthier they can pay the higher air fares, if they are back packers or middle income tourists they can come by Incat.

    World’s Fastest Ship; Is Powered by Modified Jet Engines


    • Rosemary McDonald 7.1

      '….quite a wake.' (From the Incat promotion.)



      Boat wakes

      The introduction of fast ferries to cross Cook Strait led to complaints that their wakes were increasing coastal erosion in the Marlborough Sounds. Because fast-ferry wakes tend to produce waves higher than those of conventional craft or the natural waves produced by winds, they can shift more sediment. But they can also deposit sediments. As the wakes tend to have long gaps between them, they can move sediment onshore. And since each passing ferry only makes a few wakes, the beach’s water level is never greatly elevated, making coastal erosion less likely. Researchers concluded that high-speed ferry wakes did not cause significant erosion, but they did change beach shape and the distribution of sediment along the beaches.


      The above should be a compulsory read, not only because of the commendable activism from those trying the preserve the environment of the Sounds but as an early example of an activist group being hit with a massive bill for cost after losing in the environment court. Faster ain't necessarily better.

      The property owners in Tory Channel acted quickly and applied for an injunction to stop the ferries. The application was supported by the Department of Conservation and Te Atiawa, the local Iwi.

      The Marlborough District Council, after having received advice from the Planning Tribunal, refused to support the injunction.

      The case was heard in the Environment Court by Judge Tredwell who ruled that the Sounds was an established shipping lane that was of “national importance”.

      He refused to acknowledge the environmental damage. He said that the ferry wash had caused not damage, but “change” and that the Sounds environment had reached “a new equilibrium”.

      Not only did he decline the injunction , but he awarded costs against the applicants, to the tune of $300,000.

      This decision was significant on 3 counts:

      1. The carnage was able to continue.
      2. It represented a significant narrowing of the applicability of the Resource Management Act.
      3. By awarding costs against the community, it sent a very strong message to community groups and agencies not to challenge big business, because they had the backing of the National Government, and the justice system.

      1995 saw the arrival of the new generation fast ferry from the Incat factory, capable of travelling at 48 knots.

      We now had 2 fast ferries on the same timetable running only 3 minutes apart and racing each other up the Sounds.

      So much for Tredwell’s “New Equilibrium”!

      • Stuart Munro. 7.1.1

        In terms of fast ferries, the jetfoil has advantages over the cats. They're probably faster, the ride is definitely smoother, and the foil makes much less wake than the cats.


        I used to take the Busan/Fukuoka jetfoil, just under two hours, and faster than the plane if you count all the inspection hassles. They'd've been a good choice for Cook Strait, having better rough weather performance, as well as a shorter crossing time.

      • Jenny - How to Get there? 7.1.2

        Hi Rosemary,
        Admittedly the gigantic wake thrown up by such a vessel is a bit of a problem. This is the reason that the Quick Cat ferries on the Waitemata Harbour, of similar design, are speed limited near shore. Otherwise Mission Bay would be washed away.

         Just like the Concord was not allowed to go supersonic near land, the Greta Thunberg also will have to throttle back nearing land.

        But, out on the open ocean far from shore, where there is nothing for it to run up against, the size of the wake hardly matters. And it will never match the swells that the open ocean can throw up all by itself.

        • Rosemary McDonald

          I watched the video SM put up to see if the wake was tolerable at low speeds when actually riding on the hull rather than the foils, and yes, seems to be barely a ripple.  Even at low speeds some hulls create an awful wake…

          If it were fuel efficient and safe foiling in rough open water then I wish the Greta Thunberg good speed.  (But just to moan, the whine of the jet engines would probably drive me bugshit.)

    • Andre 7.2

      Incats are not fuel-efficient.

      … Fuel consumption is 212g/kWh or 0.21l per passenger mile in full deadweight conditions at 44 knots. …


      0.21 litres per passenger mile works out to 7.66 passenger-km/litre. Compared to 35 passenger-km/litre or better from a modern long-haul airliner.

      • tc 7.2.1

        They're flashy and fast as it takes alot of energy to reach a speed so the vortex/wave pattern under them allows a skim across the water .

      • Jenny - How to Get there? 7.2.2

        Hi Andre, You must have missed the bit where the state of the art Incat vessel in my link is driven by twin jet gas turbines fueled by Liquefied Natural Gas. (LNG).

        Whereas the vessel in your link, which is a much older iteration of the Incat, is driven by 4 twenty cylinder diesel engines.

        From your link, (including the bit near the end which you quoted)


        The Condor Express is powered by four 20-cylinder Ruston RK270 diesel engines, rated to reach 7,080kW. Each engine powers a Lips LJ145D waterjet mounted on the transom. Each of the drive trains incorporates a Renk ASL60 reduction gearbox. Steering, reversing and thrust vectoring of the waterjet nozzles are carried out by a Lipstronic Jet Control System, which also provides the autopilot system. Fuel consumption is 212g/kWh or 0.21l per passenger mile in full deadweight conditions at 44 knots…


        • Andre

          You got any idea of the difference in fuel efficiency and emissions between a piston engine diesel and a gas turbine?

          Hint: it's entirely possible the piston diesel has a higher thermal efficiency than the gas turbine, although the higher carbon proportion of the diesel fuel would likely still make its emissions worse than the gas turbine, especially particulates. The gas turbine at best is going to be fractionally better, not anywhere close to making up a nearly 5 times emissions improvement it would need to get to where airline travel is.

          • Jenny - How to Get there?


            8 August 2019 at 3:22 pm

            You got any idea of the difference in fuel efficiency and emissions between a piston engine diesel and a gas turbine?

            Short answer: No.

            If you could provide some comparative figures I would be grateful.

            • Andre

              Off the top of my head, the largest piston engines in ships get pretty close to 50% thermal efficiency. Lets guess 45% for this one. The fuel for it will have around 46 MJ/kg. So burning 1 kg of fuel oil will produce around 21 MJ of mechanical energy and 3.1 kg of CO2 and some nasty black smoke. That's around 0.147 kg CO2/MJ.

              The biggest and best marine gas turbines almost get to 40% thermal efficiency*, so guess 36% for these ones. Methane has 53.6 MJ/kg, so burning 1 kg will produce around 19 MJ and emit 2.75 kg of CO2 (and bugger-all smoke). That's around .144 kg CO2/MJ.

              Without having exact data for each of the engines running the exact same duty cycle, it's going to be hard to get more accurate figures. But there's not going to be much in it.

              *land-based combined cycle gas turbines for electricity generation use the turbine exhaust to heat steam for a secondary steam turbine. This boosts the thermal efficiency up to around 60% for the best ones. But a marine turbine isn't going to use a second stage.

              • Jenny - How to Get there?

                I understand that the first stage is used for thrust. Could a marine turbine use the second stage to generate electricity?

                The excess electricity fed into batteries, to create a hybrid vessel. Battery power inshore, Gas turbines offshore?

                I mean, there seems to be lots of room on this vessel. Maybe if they ripped out the duty free shop they could fit a steam turbine and boiler in there.

                Just saying.

                • Andre

                  No, the first stage is not used for thrust, as in pushing gas exhaust out the back at high speed like an airplane jet engine. The turbine output shaft is connected to a waterjet unit, where it drives an impeller in a duct that picks up water then throws the water out the back at high speed to push the boat forward. Exactly the same as if it were a piston engine.

                  In principle, yes a marine turbine could be a combined-cycle unit. But in practice, I doubt it would be considered worthwhile to take on the added complexity or dedicate the required space to it. Especially since the second stage takes a long time to get up to temperature and become useful.

                  For grid electricity, a gas combined cycle unit will preferentially be used for baseload power, for constant continuous power output. Peaker plants that rapidly ramp up and down to follow variations in grid demand are generally single stage gas turbines, and it's accepted that the price of the fast response is higher fuel burn and lower efficiency.

                  • Jenny - How to Get there?

                    By first stage, I meant the turbine output shaft. The second stage being the jet exhaust, used to boil steam in a combined cycle operation. I take on board what you say about space and added complexity as to why a combined cycle is not used on such vessels. But I suspect that it has more to with not having a use for so much electricity generation on a boat, to be worth all the extra trouble and expense.

                    It's a solution looking for a problem.

                    Charging a hybrid drive chain might be the problem that needs to be solved, and suck up all that excess electricity production.

                    The electric part for inshore maneuvering.

                    A proven technology.


                    • Jenny - How to Get there?

                      Ultimately of course the ideal will be switch the fuel from LNG to Hydrogen, A fuel that will never be suitable for airliners due to the weight and space factor of the pressure vessels needed to contain it. Problems more easily solved on a surface vessel.

                  • Jenny - How to Get there?

                    The Norwegians are building the world's first Liquid Hydrogen fueled cruise ship.

                    Forget LNG, LHG is the ultimate fuel for the HMNZS Greta Thunberg's turbines to speed across the Tasman in a day with zero emissions


              • KJT

                I can give you the numbers for a ship that was converted from gas turbine to diesel.

                The fuel burn, full tilt, on gas turbine was 140 tons/ day of MDO.

                After replacement with 3 diesel gensets, not the most fuel efficient drivetrain that could have been used, it was around 40 tons/day of HFO. It would have been about 45 ton/day to get the same speed as the gas turbine.

    • KJT 7.3

      Gas turbines are extremely fuel inefficient.

      The most efficient marine engines are large direct drive slow speed diesels. Which is why they are used in almost all new cargo ships.

      Fast ferries, and cars, use more fuel per passenger miles, than aircraft. As do cruise ships.

      Of course, passenger ships have to cart around all those cabins, and entertainment.

      The ultimate is sailing ships, but I doubt if many tourists want to spend 8 weeks from Europe.

      Mass tourism is simply not compatible with a sustainable environment. An issue we will have to face, in future.

      • Jenny - How to Get there? 7.3.1

        Hi KJT, What you say of course is true. But what is equally true is that it can't continue. Business as usual is not an option.

        What I also believe is that a return to pre-industrial agrarian level of civilisation is also not possible. At least since the age of the Enlightenment, (and probably even before that), humanity has been embarked on a one way arc towards more sophistication in social organisation and technology. There is no turning back. Therefore any solutions must lie in these areas. 

        You may notice that most of my suggestions are based in STEM strategies. But also in political strategies as well. Politics, science, democracy, culture. An advance in one of these leads to advances in the others.

      • Jenny - How to Get there? 7.3.2

        Most of what I have written about here is more a thought experiment more than anything else, (though extrapolated from already existing or in development technology). Skimming across the Tasman in a High Speed, LHG fueled, zero emissions, 13,000 ton, alloy catamaran may happen one day.

        But that is not what I am really talking about. What I am really talking about is the lack of political will to look for solutions. This is a political issue. This is a leadership issue. (Or more precisely a lack of leadership issue).

        Air New Zealand, (in fact all airlines that fly into this country), should be made to pay for the costs of their pollution, costs which they have so far externalised on to the global commons and future generations to pay. If they had to pay these costs themselves, or couldn't pay them, this would be an incentive to government and industry to develop alternatives.

        It doesn't look like a tax or a levy on CO2 is going to be imposed by our leaders on the airlines any time soon.

        In the meantime I have asked our Green MPs to protest this state of affairs by refusing to fly at least domestically. I have asked them to be like Greta Thunberg

  8. Kay 8

    I remember well frequenting the NZR bus and the Silver Fern to get from Whangarei to Wellington in the late 80s. A really fun trek was the 2 days it took to get to Dunedin- bus, train, ferry and a very long train. I think it was much cheaper than flying and we didn't really think about the time involved, just factored it in. 

    But would I be prepared to go back to land travel around NZ? I would love to. Especially the Auck-Wgtn run, but NOT 12 hours on a slow train. Yes I'm spoilt now, we all are, because of the 1hr flights. But the technology is there to cut that time way down (with appropriate slowing in certain sections like the Raurimu Spiral and a couple of viadicts). I'd be more than happy for a high speed electrified service 7-8hrs but is the infrastructure required ever going to happen as long as cheap airfares (and our need for speed) continues? We need to have the latter drummed out of us. Us 'oldies' can remember something different but can younger people even comprehend the idea of taking longer to get somewhere?

    I can also go on forever about trying to get around NZ by public transport- in a nutshell, while it can (almost) be done, it's so damn near impossible it's why practically everyone who can, drives cars/campers. Because they HAVE to. No regional rail anymore, and Intercity buses so few and far between- many just once a day and leaving at some ungodly hour of the morning. And once you're at your destination no local transport to get to the interesting sights. 

    I've been investigating going to Napier from Wellington. The train line was closed down years ago. There's one bus a day that gets in while it's still light (5 hours) that leaves at 7.15am which means having to taxi to the rail station because the local Wgtn buses are too unreliable at that hour. It's easier- and not too much dearer, to fly, and there's several flights a day. This country does not want anyone to travel overland, and if they do it encourages cars. 

    • greywarshark 8.1

      If i want to travel from Nelson to Christchurch by land using bus also bus and rail.   Times are approximate.

      I would leave about 8 am from Nelson by bus and go through to Blenheim arriving about 11 am.   There I would wait for an hour or so at the railway station in an open but roofed area with access to toilets and there is a nice cafe, but they have a business to run and I don't feel good about sitting round in their premises unless the weather is too bad.   Then there is a bus from the ferry at Picton, stops at Blenheim and picks us up and through to Christchurch arriving about 6 ish.   Cost not too bad around $65 for a gold card.

      If I want to go from Blenheim to Christchurch by train, I travel to Blenheim by bus getting there 11am approx and the train comes through from Picton about 2 or 3 pm.   I pay about $20 for the Nelson-Blenheim leg and I think over $100 for the Blenheim-Chch leg and get in about 8 pm at night, so 12 hours from start to finish, which includes a 3 hour break in Blenheim.   It's not encouraging for the train-positive traveller to use.   (The train only runs between abt September and April also.)

      Plane takes about 45 mins for about $110 all up with card charge, checked bag, seated anywhere, and getting low fare but not at dawn chorus time.

      • Jenny - How to Get there? 8.1.1

        While we are talking about the 'old times'. My generation is the last that remembers when All food was packaged in natural materials, (or if not exactly natural, easily recyclable, or at the very least not as polluting), glass bottles and jars, brown paper, cardboard boxes, metal tins. We need to get all plastic out of our food chain. All of it. No exceptions. Legislation works; The plastic shopping bag ban was a good start. We need to legislate to get rid of all plastic packaging in our food chain.
        It is not necessary it is more to do with branding and advertising than food safety.

        All these things have one thing in common. Greed. And the selfish desire to maximise profits no matter the cost. Costs that are not borne by the polluter.

        Air lines like plastic producers need to start paying for their external costs. If they can't, then they need to go out of business. We can't afford them any more.

        • greywarshark

          I buy my milk delivered to the door in glass bottles – again.   We used to have local milk treatment plants and bottles but that was not a suitable method that appealed to private business.   So it had to be closed and done in a central position in a factory.   Bottles were likely to break with the long distance transported with all the handling that involved. so we had to accept plastic.   The drive for efficiency will kill society Aldous Huxley said, and i think he will be right.

          The next premium product for the wealthy will be milk grown on the Moon, impregnated with special chemicals designed to help the intrepid and mindless (mind and brain disconnected),  cope on distant planets with little oxygen!   The rest of us will be treated by having a small chip inserted somewhere enabling us to eat grass and cut out the middlecow.

          Further back, when a child in a small town we used to put a billy at the gate and there would be a half pint measure as a minimum scooped out of the can into it.  That would be paid for with plastic tokens or could chance money if out of them.

          Then we would collect the milk from the gate and put it into a pot and bring it to the boil to ensure it was sterilised.   The trick was to time the task so you were there at the time it came to the boil and started to rise, as it does, and goes all down the side if not seen to.

    • Jenny - How to Get there? 8.2

      There are solutions. There is just no political will to implement them.

      Us ‘oldies’ can remember something different but can younger people even comprehend the idea of taking longer to get somewhere…..

      No regional rail anymore,…..


      I can remember as a child my father's grief when they closed the passenger rail link to Rotorua a favourite holiday destination of his. And he drove trucks for a living

  9. marty mars 9

    Air travel has really contributed to destroying so much imo. Not just the ability to transport stuff quicker (and thus destroy more because you can sell more and easier) , the ability to get places quicker, to move on more easily, to discard, to consume, to self indulge. I WANT to see stuff and by my God I will. The sooner we slow down, discard air travel unless it can be really justified, get over our own destructive self indulgent tendencies including tourism both as tourists and the recipients of tourism, the better imo. It won't happen overnight but it will happen.

    • weka 9.1

      wait until people realise the ecological footprint of their Amazon order. I think this is the big conversation waiting to happen, what are we willing to change about lives, habits, expectations.

      So much advantage to slow. I love Holmgren's work for this. He has the philosophy well thought through and then he figures out how to make it work now rather in a mythical future when the government/business have replaced BAU with green tech.

  10. Matthew 10

    To the extent of my understanding, the Air NZ offset program is based on tree planting. The science says that trees only offset carbon while they are living, and a lot of carbon offset forests are plantation pine, with maybe 10 – 15 years life expectancy. Aeroplane emissions affect our atmosphere for much longer than a decade or two, so offsetting your carbon is a phallacy. Air NZ is simply protecting its business interests. It would seem the government is on board, seeing this as protection of tourism, hence the rather soft proposals in the recent ETS update. Climate change denial will be the end of us all. Green innovation needs to be better funded so alternatives can be found more quickly.

    • weka 10.1

      Paying to pollute schemes are the lowest grade of action we can take, driven by profit motives and people who don't want to have to change their behaviours. I'm hoping we get past that in our collective thinking really soon.

  11. johnm 11

    Global Aviation Impact on Climate System Change is HUGE

    • weka 11.1

      what's the gist? I tried watching it but he's spending a lot of time reeling off complicated numbers without saying too much re CC.

      • Incognito 11.1.1

        Johnm has a bad habit of posting clips, some very long, without much in the way of explanation or any attempts to summarise. He’s been warned about this before and I have told him in no uncertain terms that he’s angling for a permanent ban if he keeps it up.

      • johnm 11.1.2

        Aviation provides a huge aerosol masking effect which masks the heating effect of Climate Change. After 9/11 all flights over the US were grounded and there was a noticeable measurable increase in temperature. Above: Aviation has a 2-4 times greater effect on Climate than just the CO2 due to emissions of nitrous oxide, water vapour and other aerosols plus the contrails linger both trapping heat and blocking incoming heat from the sun. 4 billion persons fly per year projected to rise to 8 billion in 20 years.

        To see flight traffic view https://www.flightradar24.com/49.37,-23.56/4

        Global Dimming – The Aerosol Masking Effect

        • Andre

          Guy McPherson, huh?

          Here's what an actual climate scientist (Professor James Renwick) has to say about that doomer cult leader's misrepresentations:


          However, the next steps are where McPherson’s grasp of the science seems shakiest. Cutting aerosol pollution to zero (as would happen when and if industrial society falls over) will unmask another 2.5°C of warming. This is a factor of ten too large, as the actual amount would be around 0.25°C by current best estimates

          • johnm

            Aerosols: falling away of the aerosols masking effect and rise of black carbon emissions (2.5°C)

            With dramatic cuts in emissions, there will also be a dramatic fall in aerosols that currently mask the full warming of greenhouse gases. From 1850 to 2010, anthropogenic aerosols brought about a decrease of ∼2.53 K, says a recent paper. While on the one hand not all of the aerosols masking effect may be removed over the next few years, there now are a lot more aerosols than in 2010. A 2.5°C warming due to removal of part of the aerosols masking effect therefore seems well possible by the year 2026, especially when considering further aerosol impact such as caused by burning of biomass, as discussed in this post.

            Actually this estimate comes from Sam Carana , a pseudonym for a or group of European climate scientists not GM. They differ on this point from Renwick. http://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/extinction.html

            [Added quote marks – Incognito]

  12. Stuart Munro. 12

    I see this issue as one of political and ecological horizons. The political horizon is three to six years at best, in spite of cheerful use of targets like 2050. But the long term enlightened best interests of the people and the country necessarily extend decades or multiple generations into the future. 

    An issue like reforming air travel is not attractive in the short term, indeed it seems catastrophic. But in the long term it is plainly rational, and if embarked on early, need not cause particularly negative consequences. The problem is when short term thinking attempts to preempt long term solutions. 

    The Darwinian imperative is adapt or die. We need to be careful of assertions that we need not adapt, unless our strategy is to be among the last dinosaurs. Let's adapt eh.

  13. Monty 13

    The airline industry is doing considerable research into alternative fuels and even E engines.  There is a real drive to get these over line and commercially viable.

    I could realistically see one or a combination of these as common place in the next 10 years.  Range anxiety will take on a new meaning if we have E planes.

    Planes are also becoming increasingly fuel efficient. 

    Airlines are aware of their carbon footprint and the need to act socially and environmentally and Air NZ is a lead in this from what read.  This is a start it’s not perfect now but they recognise this and have targets.

    Living in China I don’t fly as much as I used to due to the high speed electric trains 4 hours Shanghai to Beijing.  Its faster and better than flying, I am a convert and if travelling domestically within China/Japan I always choose the train first. 

    High speed trains would be needed to change how we travel domestically the reality is we might not be able to afford to build the network.

    With the speed of modern life in today’s world using a long distant bus or the existing train network just will not get buy in.

  14. newsense 14


    How often do those asking farmers to cut their herds fly?

    Same principle has to apply to all sacred cows, as it were.

    Same as with meat, doesn't have to be cold turkey. More trains, more boats, more local.

    More off-setting, more tele-commuting. 

  15. greywarshark 15

    I guess some people have caught up with this on the news.  A triumph for practicality even if not strictly because of a green move.


  16. Exkiwiforces 16

    At the moment NZ Rail (Kiwi Rail) is stuffed over the yrs of under investment especially weather in under Private ownership orGovernment control prior to being sold off and later when it was re- nationalised under last Labour and then run into ground by the “No Mates Party”.

    But there is hope if one gets the edition of “New Zealand Railway Observer” August to September. Which explains a number of new investments and legacy problems from the lack of investment over the last few decades.

    We are still buying New rolling stock from China? Why aren’t we investing in our own workforce and design as we use too? Heck we can’t even build new bogies for the new inter-city from Hamilton to Auckland was is causing delays as these new source bogies have to come from overseas.

    But there is the issues with the new DL Locomotives from China in which I quote from the editorial of the latest NZ Rail Observer “The Chinese built DL Class were cheap in comparison with locomotive sources from Nth America. It is known that the DL’s have had realiability issues, and although KiwiRail has been tight-lipped on maintenance issues, it is understood that at times some 30% of the DL’s fleet are not fit for operations.” But yet  the old school fleet of US built ones are picking up the slack of the new DL’s but at a huge cost as the oldest Locomotive from 1961 had its fifth rebuild at a cost of NZ $30.3m and a new similar US built one will cost around NZ $5-6m. They would be lucky to get 30yrs out of the new DL’s if what I’ve heard is true about the DL’s as they are a dog breakfast.

    Then there is the infrastructure bridges, current rail alignment apart from the NIMT which upgraded by Sir Rob, is still dating back to the steam era of the Ab’s, Wab’s,K’s, Ka’s and Kb’s locomotives etc. Land including the Right of Way of  former tracks and current tracks sold off therefore reducing future capacity. Heck have a look at Newmarket junction in Auckland, what a bloody dogs breakfast that is all the thanks private ownership flogging off land for cheap and nasty housing or the old turn out in towards to old CHCH Station by the new useless station which has no room for growth unlike the old one. Then there was double tracks all the way out to Rollie, but cut back to just behind the Swamp Hotel or the same at Greymouth or in Dunedin and else where that had sizeable rail movements.

    Please don’t say the size Cape Gauge or 3ft 6in in old money is the issue, it isn’t if the Banana benders from Queensland can run tilt trains, run trains into bum fuck Idaho (into the bush) high capacity freight trains and there are some monsters or the same in Japan and in Sth Africa? It’s because the lack of investment from Government and just the lack of investment in other NZ Government dept& rsquo;s like Defence, Health, Education, DOC etc.

    Don’t get me wrong as I do love my planes and I do miss the smell of kerosene in the morning or high octane fuel for those big V12 RR Merlin or DB and Alison engines etc and those old WW1 rotary engines throwing castor oil about the place.

  17. SHG 17

    Leaders at the forefront of Climate Action say flying isn’t just about the carbon emissions from that one flight but instead it’s to do with the GHG emissions from the whole trip

    Now apply this logic to having a child

  18. Jenny - How to Get there? 18

    Time for ANZ to start investing some of their profits into alternatives?

    Should the government as a major shareholder in ANZ be demanding it?

    One of New Zealand's most trusted companies is among its largest climate polluters. Despite a pledge to limit its footprint, the national carrier's pollution is growing steadily. Charlie Mitchell reports…..

    ……Air New Zealand is facing a dilemma that all airlines face. Its environmental footprint is significant, mostly unavoidable, and growing.

    …….While other industries have been pressured to decarbonise – with varying levels of success – Air New Zealand's carbon footprint has steadily grown year on year. Its emissions in 2018 were 700,000t higher than they were in 2011, the equivalent annual carbon footprint of around 90,000 New Zealanders, or a city roughly the size of Palmerston North…..

    ……"Unless you rein in the airlines – which is not a particularly palatable option to most neoliberal governments – unless we tackle that, we're unlikely to solve the problem of high growth in aviation," Higham says.

    "It's a collective problem and it does require a collective response. I did tend to lose heart that individuals can solve this problem in isolation.


  19. Antoine 19

    Yee ha! Weka is back.

    When did that happen?

    Hello Weka if you are reading this, I hope all is well in your neck of the woods.


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