End the duopoly

Ask a Points Nerd: How Can I Factor Climate Change Into My Air Travel?

Getty Images If 2020 has done anything, it has made us question our assumptions. From big systemic problems to personal issues, everyone’s ideas about what matters have shifted to some degree.

The sudden decline in global air travel also carried a major silver lining: It contributed to a drastic reduction in carbon emissions. An article in the journal Nature estimated a global 17% daily reduction in carbon dioxide emissions in April 2020 compared to 2019. It turns out that climate sustainability might be possible — if we’re all willing to stop driving and flying so much.

Though changes in air travel weren’t wholly responsible for the drop in emissions, for me it raises a question I have long avoided: How can I both care about the future of our planet and travel around it? Is it even possible to be an environmentally conscious frequent flyer?

According to a report by the nonprofit International Council on Clean Transportation, U.S. “frequent flyers” — adults who took more than six trips by plane per year in 2017 — emitted a little over 3.4 tons of carbon annually. “If everyone in the world flew like American frequent fliers,” the report claims, “global oil consumption would increase […]

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