Frequent Fliers, Please Report to the Counter

One acid test of the sincerity of those who want to seriously reduce carbon emissions to arrest climate change is whether they will support reasonable-cost nuclear power. The rapid onset of new atomic plants would be one way actually to come close to net-zero in emissions without drastically changing first-world lifestyles. The alternative acid test is whether these climate advocates will honestly address how those lifestyles would need to change absent a nuclear fallback. This New York Times article, buried in the Oct. 8 print edition, caught my eye because it hints at how much and whose flying would need to be curbed to meet international aviation targets now set for 2050. The key passage: “The richest 20% of people worldwide take 80% of the flights….The top 2% of frequent fliers take about 40% of the flights.” You’re going to have to stop those folks from doing so (either commercially or on private jets) if you’re serious about “equity” and about keeping fossil-fuel aircraft within these tight limits. This stands to be an interesting test for the economy, for democracy and (not least) for compliance. Europe is leading so far on this aviation campaign but the U.S. is now committed as well. After we get the skies worked out, we can tackle cruise ships and yachts.

Published by timwferguson

Longtime writer-editor, focusing on topics of business and policy, global and local.

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