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Vladex
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Is air travel really such a polluter? (Shutdown makes things clearer)

Wed Jul 29, 2020 11:54 am

I live on a 12th floor of a building a few kilometers from YYZ and during this shutdown the one thing that I see is amazing views that I have never seen before. I see clearly at least twice ahead and I see landmarks I haven't seen before from my balcony under any weather. Also everything looks organic now like the trees are actually breathing and grass is growing freely. Even away from city I have seen things much more clearly and organic. I know car traffic is down but air traffic is down by about 95% . Is this just a short window. will electrification have the same effect , when will it come to airplanes? Your experience about clearing of air?
 
TheWorm123
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Re: Is air travel really such a polluter? (Shutdown makes things clearer)

Wed Jul 29, 2020 12:01 pm

I live under the MAN flight path where they turn to land on the South-Eastern runway when approaching from the west and I’ve noticed a lot less planes now.

Not much of a sound issue as they’re still usually a few thousand feet up but only a few flights a day.
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0newair0
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Re: Is air travel really such a polluter? (Shutdown makes things clearer)

Wed Jul 29, 2020 12:05 pm

Aviation accounts for approximately 2 percent of global emissions. The new views your seeing are likely because people are driving less and manufacturing facilities are operating less causing less pollution from the factories themselves and the power plants sourcing their electricity.

Also, people in Los Angeles noted the same thing about "new views" when the world first shut down. But now that LA is sort of reopened the new views are gone and air traffic is only about 1/2 of what is was last year at most.
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Toinou
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Re: Is air travel really such a polluter? (Shutdown makes things clearer)

Wed Jul 29, 2020 12:15 pm

As already said, air transport is only a small fraction of air pollution.
Still, two things need to be taken into account:
- it pollutes more than others mean of transport to displace the same things or people;
- the fact that this pollution is mostly released at high altitude makes its effect (especially in terms of global warming) worse than the same amount of pollution on ground level.

So, obviously, electrification (if using clean sources of electricity) will help for air quality, as it will for all sources of pollution.
 
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Dahlgardo
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Re: Is air travel really such a polluter? (Shutdown makes things clearer)

Wed Jul 29, 2020 12:16 pm

it is a really interesting discussion.

The massive increase in airtravel and tourism certainly has its downsides.

Pollution, carbon emission, overtourism and not least as we've all seen, it's a great catalyst for worldwide pandemics.

At the moment it seems to me, that the travel industry just want us all to get back to the old normal regardless of all the downsides.
My feeling is, that as soon travel is safe again, we will soon be back to where we were pre corona.

But I think that we all now have had a glimpse of what downsizing your carbonprint looks like in reality.
We get a cleaner environment, but at the cost of a shrinking economy.
I am personally happy to pay that price.
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kalvado
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Re: Is air travel really such a polluter? (Shutdown makes things clearer)

Wed Jul 29, 2020 12:25 pm

Dust from automobile traffic should play a role in visibility. Reduced industrial flow - not only emissions per se, but dust from moving and processing things.
I doubt aviation is really a big factor
 
Western727
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Re: Is air travel really such a polluter? (Shutdown makes things clearer)

Wed Jul 29, 2020 12:41 pm

It's largely from the reduced automobile traffic.

"According to the EPA, motor vehicles collectively cause 75 percent of carbon monoxide pollution in the U.S. The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) estimates that on-road vehicles cause one-third of the air pollution that produces smog in the U.S., and transportation causes 27 percent of greenhouse gas emissions." (source: https://auto.howstuffworks.com/air-poll ... 0emissions.
Last edited by Western727 on Wed Jul 29, 2020 12:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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brilondon
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Re: Is air travel really such a polluter? (Shutdown makes things clearer)

Wed Jul 29, 2020 12:54 pm

Dahlgardo wrote:
it is a really interesting discussion.

The massive increase in airtravel and tourism certainly has its downsides.

Pollution, carbon emission, overtourism and not least as we've all seen, it's a great catalyst for worldwide pandemics.

At the moment it seems to me, that the travel industry just want us all to get back to the old normal regardless of all the downsides.
My feeling is, that as soon travel is safe again, we will soon be back to where we were pre corona.

But I think that we all now have had a glimpse of what downsizing your carbonprint looks like in reality.
We get a cleaner environment, but at the cost of a shrinking economy.
I am personally happy to pay that price.


As stated above, the need for a working economy comes with not so clean environment. If you want it to be clean, then you will lose your job and have no income but the air will be cleaner. You have to make choices. I'm not telling you what to do but your decision will impact the air we breath.
Rush forever Closer To My Heart
 
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lightsaber
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Re: Is air travel really such a polluter? (Shutdown makes things clearer)

Wed Jul 29, 2020 1:13 pm

0newair0 wrote:
Aviation accounts for approximately 2 percent of global emissions. The new views your seeing are likely because people are driving less and manufacturing facilities are operating less causing less pollution from the factories themselves and the power plants sourcing their electricity.

Also, people in Los Angeles noted the same thing about "new views" when the world first shut down. But now that LA is sort of reopened the new views are gone and air traffic is only about 1/2 of what is was last year at most.

A lot will be the incredible reduction in manufacturing. Ovens, kilns, and other industrial processes pollute a lot, in particular cement or tire plants.

The views in LA are still nicer without all the traffic.

In 1938, residents of Pittsburgh were shocked at how much smoke a fully operational steel plant made as during the Great Depression, they had forgotten. Not that the areas under discussion have coal burning steel plants. Of topic, but don't celebrate the lack of work, there are tough times ahead.

Lightsaber
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kalvado
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Re: Is air travel really such a polluter? (Shutdown makes things clearer)

Wed Jul 29, 2020 1:15 pm

brilondon wrote:
Dahlgardo wrote:
it is a really interesting discussion.

The massive increase in airtravel and tourism certainly has its downsides.

Pollution, carbon emission, overtourism and not least as we've all seen, it's a great catalyst for worldwide pandemics.

At the moment it seems to me, that the travel industry just want us all to get back to the old normal regardless of all the downsides.
My feeling is, that as soon travel is safe again, we will soon be back to where we were pre corona.

But I think that we all now have had a glimpse of what downsizing your carbonprint looks like in reality.
We get a cleaner environment, but at the cost of a shrinking economy.
I am personally happy to pay that price.


As stated above, the need for a working economy comes with not so clean environment. If you want it to be clean, then you will lose your job and have no income but the air will be cleaner. You have to make choices. I'm not telling you what to do but your decision will impact the air we breath.

It is not that simple. There are ways improve things - but as always 80% of the problem can be resolved for 20% of the cost. A sweet spot of cost-efficient environmental protection keeps moving, so things do become better.
 
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c933103
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Re: Is air travel really such a polluter? (Shutdown makes things clearer)

Wed Jul 29, 2020 2:12 pm

One thing to note about the shutdown is that it also shutdown other polluters
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mxaxai
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Re: Is air travel really such a polluter? (Shutdown makes things clearer)

Wed Jul 29, 2020 2:13 pm

In terms of local emissions, aviation nowadays is almost negligible. You might notice slightly increased carbon monoxide or nitrogen oxide levels on an airport tarmac but it won't affect an entire city. This would look very different if we were still flying around in smoking 707 and DC-8.

In large western cities, automobiles are responsible for 60-80% of all pollution. Ports are also huge polluters, followed by heavy industry and old coal powerplants.
 
frmrCapCadet
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Re: Is air travel really such a polluter? (Shutdown makes things clearer)

Wed Jul 29, 2020 2:41 pm

Aviation, per IATA, will take 4 years to get back to 2019 levels. By that time electric road vehicles will be eating into petroleum usage in accelerating amounts. What with bio-fuels and offsets I do not see aviation as presenting an unduly hard problem.
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CALMSP
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Re: Is air travel really such a polluter? (Shutdown makes things clearer)

Wed Jul 29, 2020 2:51 pm

I've seen a larger decrease from traffic vs. airplane traffic. But that's not what the media, government and one side of the spectrum want you to believe.
 
Capricorn
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Re: Is air travel really such a polluter? (Shutdown makes things clearer)

Wed Jul 29, 2020 3:03 pm

Globally no, but locally yes, air travel could make up a significant portion of air pollution, especially considering locations with close proximity to airports. Therefore residents who live close to an airport might indeed notice a significant reduction in pollution, similarly if a furnace shuts down. But I agree that in larger metro areas the noticeable reduction in pollution is because of general lower overall economic activity, like driving or production instead of lower air traffic. Maybe somewhere there is data available, which documents the pollution in proximity of larger airports?
 
MIflyer12
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Re: Is air travel really such a polluter? (Shutdown makes things clearer)

Wed Jul 29, 2020 3:05 pm

mxaxai wrote:
In terms of local emissions, aviation nowadays is almost negligible. You might notice slightly increased carbon monoxide or nitrogen oxide levels on an airport tarmac but it won't affect an entire city. This would look very different if we were still flying around in smoking 707 and DC-8.

In large western cities, automobiles are responsible for 60-80% of all pollution. Ports are also huge polluters, followed by heavy industry and old coal powerplants.


Not all pollution is related to impaired or improved visibility as outlined in the OP's remarks. There certainly is pollution (NOx contributing to smog; fine particulates; sulfur) different from CO2 emissions. You also need to separate cars from trucks/buses/trains/aircraft in the Transport category. National Geographic cites cars as responsible for 1/3 of all U.S. air pollution. CO2 emissions from air travel/cargo is fairly small but growing relatively rapidly. It can't be ignored if the goal is net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
 
izbtmnhd
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Re: Is air travel really such a polluter? (Shutdown makes things clearer)

Wed Jul 29, 2020 4:01 pm

Vladex wrote:
I live on a 12th floor of a building a few kilometers from YYZ and during this shutdown the one thing that I see is amazing views that I have never seen before. I see clearly at least twice ahead and I see landmarks I haven't seen before from my balcony under any weather. Also everything looks organic now like the trees are actually breathing and grass is growing freely. Even away from city I have seen things much more clearly and organic. I know car traffic is down but air traffic is down by about 95% . Is this just a short window. will electrification have the same effect , when will it come to airplanes? Your experience about clearing of air?


If you work within a few km from YYZ then you're within close distance of the 401, the 427 and the 400 or the 410 depending on what side of YYZ you work on. You're also pretty close to some industrial areas as well.

The reduced traffic on the 401 alone is probably creating your improved views.
 
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SQ22
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Re: Is air travel really such a polluter? (Shutdown makes things clearer)

Wed Jul 29, 2020 4:23 pm

Thread moved to Non-Aviation as it clearly has a wider scope.
 
PlymSpotter
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Re: Is air travel really such a polluter? (Shutdown makes things clearer)

Wed Jul 29, 2020 4:24 pm

Toinou wrote:
Still, two things need to be taken into account:
- it pollutes more than others mean of transport to displace the same things or people;
- the fact that this pollution is mostly released at high altitude makes its effect (especially in terms of global warming) worse than the same amount of pollution on ground level.


Your first point is a considerable generalisation and not true. In certain cases there are greener methods of travelling - predominantly major city pairs in close proximity, where electrified HSR makes sense. But when you look at the situation holistically, factor average passengers and account for the emission costs of overland infrastructure, flying is the greenest option for a very large proportion of trips.

Aviation's emissions by volume are around 2% of all anthropocentric Co2 emissions. Add the weighting for release at altitude and this increases to 5%. Even with this weighting factored in, aviation is consistently the greenest travel option available.
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VSMUT
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Re: Is air travel really such a polluter? (Shutdown makes things clearer)

Wed Jul 29, 2020 4:52 pm

Vladex wrote:
Also everything looks organic now like the trees are actually breathing and grass is growing freely. Even away from city I have seen things much more clearly and organic.


Trees and grass "breathe" CO2. If anything, they should be thriving less.

Toinou wrote:
As already said, air transport is only a small fraction of air pollution.
Still, two things need to be taken into account:
- it pollutes more than others mean of transport to displace the same things or people;
- the fact that this pollution is mostly released at high altitude makes its effect (especially in terms of global warming) worse than the same amount of pollution on ground level.

So, obviously, electrification (if using clean sources of electricity) will help for air quality, as it will for all sources of pollution.


You forgot one point: Air transport is only available/within the means for a tiny fraction of the worlds population. The reality is that most people in the world still haven't flown (estimates suggest more than 80% have never flown), and even fewer fly on a regular, even annual basis. It's 2.5% of the worlds CO2 emissions, emitted by less than 5% of the worlds population. If everyone flew as much as us privileged people, aviation would make up almost 50% of the worlds combined emissions.
 
ScottB
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Re: Is air travel really such a polluter? (Shutdown makes things clearer)

Wed Jul 29, 2020 4:57 pm

Dahlgardo wrote:
We get a cleaner environment, but at the cost of a shrinking economy.
I am personally happy to pay that price.


The impacts of a shrinking economy don't fall equally on everyone. Are you willing to lose your job or face the prospect of 25% lower earnings or 25% higher taxes to subsidize those who can't find work in the shrinking economy you seem to prefer? In a place like Hawaii, tourism accounts for a quarter of gross state product. Killing that industry will have knock-on effects as residents with no jobs may have to leave to find jobs or rely on government subsistence programs, which would further lower gross state product.
 
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Dutchy
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Re: Is air travel really such a polluter? (Shutdown makes things clearer)

Wed Jul 29, 2020 5:08 pm

Pollution in what? Contributing to climate change or local pollution.

In terms of climate change, yes, aviation is a large contributor, 2,4% in 2018 of global CO2 emission, for developing countries it is more, and less developed countries, less. But that is one side of things, the absolute and relative numbers continue to rise and aviation is exempt from the Paris agreement. As for another potent greenhouse gas: water vapor released high in the atmosphere, you can double the amount of impact aviation has.

As for local pollution, the impact is more immediate. Ultrafine dust is a health hazard and other polluters form engines as well. That is what is blocking your views.
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ScottB
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Re: Is air travel really such a polluter? (Shutdown makes things clearer)

Wed Jul 29, 2020 5:17 pm

VSMUT wrote:
You forgot one point: Air transport is only available/within the means for a tiny fraction of the worlds population. The reality is that most people in the world still haven't flown (estimates suggest more than 80% have never flown), and even fewer fly on a regular, even annual basis. It's 2.5% of the worlds CO2 emissions, emitted by less than 5% of the worlds population. If everyone flew as much as us privileged people, aviation would make up almost 50% of the worlds combined emissions.


Well, by the same token, private automobile transport is also within the means of a relatively small fraction of the world's population. If India had as many cars per capita as Germany (let alone the U.S.) there would be more cars in India than in the U.S., China, Japan, and Brazil COMBINED (the top four countries for cars). If China had as many cars per capita as the U.S., that would double the worldwide total.
 
VSMUT
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Re: Is air travel really such a polluter? (Shutdown makes things clearer)

Wed Jul 29, 2020 5:41 pm

ScottB wrote:
VSMUT wrote:
You forgot one point: Air transport is only available/within the means for a tiny fraction of the worlds population. The reality is that most people in the world still haven't flown (estimates suggest more than 80% have never flown), and even fewer fly on a regular, even annual basis. It's 2.5% of the worlds CO2 emissions, emitted by less than 5% of the worlds population. If everyone flew as much as us privileged people, aviation would make up almost 50% of the worlds combined emissions.


Well, by the same token, private automobile transport is also within the means of a relatively small fraction of the world's population. If India had as many cars per capita as Germany (let alone the U.S.) there would be more cars in India than in the U.S., China, Japan, and Brazil COMBINED (the top four countries for cars). If China had as many cars per capita as the U.S., that would double the worldwide total.


Bingo :checkmark:

Which is why developing public transport matters so much.
 
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wxman11
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Re: Is air travel really such a polluter? (Shutdown makes things clearer)

Wed Jul 29, 2020 7:13 pm

I have say that despite this covid issue causing major headaches, its has opened our eyes to the great landscape views that we know are there but never get a chance to see to fully take advantange and admire the beauty without having a layer of haze/smog lingering around. I love flying as much as the next person does but I'm waiting to see when we go to Star Trek techonology how the environment will look like. Sure, its a very long way to go but at least this covid has given us a wake up on what or how much we still need to go in order to have a clean environment and currently we are paying a price. Who said that you need some kind of natural disaster event to provide that wake up call?? Curious to know how the aerial photos look like now that there was a brief period where haze is not blocking a nice view of the city.
 
deebee278
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Re: Is air travel really such a polluter? (Shutdown makes things clearer)

Wed Jul 29, 2020 8:10 pm

Vladex wrote:
I live on a 12th floor of a building a few kilometers from YYZ and during this shutdown the one thing that I see is amazing views that I have never seen before. I see clearly at least twice ahead and I see landmarks I haven't seen before from my balcony under any weather. Also everything looks organic now like the trees are actually breathing and grass is growing freely. Even away from city I have seen things much more clearly and organic. I know car traffic is down but air traffic is down by about 95% . Is this just a short window. will electrification have the same effect , when will it come to airplanes? Your experience about clearing of air?


In the medical world, it's called a placebo.
 
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northstardc4m
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Re: Is air travel really such a polluter? (Shutdown makes things clearer)

Wed Jul 29, 2020 8:17 pm

Vladex wrote:
I live on a 12th floor of a building a few kilometers from YYZ and during this shutdown the one thing that I see is amazing views that I have never seen before. I see clearly at least twice ahead and I see landmarks I haven't seen before from my balcony under any weather. Also everything looks organic now like the trees are actually breathing and grass is growing freely. Even away from city I have seen things much more clearly and organic. I know car traffic is down but air traffic is down by about 95% . Is this just a short window. will electrification have the same effect , when will it come to airplanes? Your experience about clearing of air?


Toronto is not a typical indicator... particle levels are down by large margins since February, July 2019 vs July 2020 we are seeing an almost 50% reduction... most of which can be attributed to less coming from the US and the near shutdown of 2 carbon plants in Hamilton, the largest particulate polluters in the area. Particulates are not that big of a pollutant effect wise, but they can be the most visible. Yes the air in cleaner looking but it's not to do with YYZ being down on flights, also not 95% BTW closer to 60% last time I checked for aircraft movements...

Air pollution from air travel is mostly CO (carbon monoxide) CO2 (carbon dioxide) and NOx (Nitrogen Oxide), which are almost invisible to the naked eye, but not environmental effect wise.

Even so, air traffic is a minuscule overall producer of pollutants... heavy industry, road traffic and farming still out do air traffic by large multiples. So yes electric cars and other electrification changes using green energy will help alot more than reductions in the number of 737s in the world.
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Vladex
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Re: Is air travel really such a polluter? (Shutdown makes things clearer)

Thu Jul 30, 2020 1:23 am

izbtmnhd wrote:
Vladex wrote:
I live on a 12th floor of a building a few kilometers from YYZ and during this shutdown the one thing that I see is amazing views that I have never seen before. I see clearly at least twice ahead and I see landmarks I haven't seen before from my balcony under any weather. Also everything looks organic now like the trees are actually breathing and grass is growing freely. Even away from city I have seen things much more clearly and organic. I know car traffic is down but air traffic is down by about 95% . Is this just a short window. will electrification have the same effect , when will it come to airplanes? Your experience about clearing of air?


If you work within a few km from YYZ then you're within close distance of the 401, the 427 and the 400 or the 410 depending on what side of YYZ you work on. You're also pretty close to some industrial areas as well.

The reduced traffic on the 401 alone is probably creating your improved views.


Car traffic is almost the same as ever by now and I see smoke coming in from Molson brewery. This site confirms it https://www.tomtom.com/en_gb/traffic-in ... o-traffic/
Hoever I have seen maybe two airplanes in the last 3 hours.
 
Redd
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Re: Is air travel really such a polluter? (Shutdown makes things clearer)

Thu Jul 30, 2020 8:43 am

VSMUT wrote:
Trees and grass "breathe" CO2. If anything, they should be thriving less.



That would be the case if it was pure clean CO2 being produced by transport, power generation and industry. But it's not.
 
LCDFlight
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Re: Is air travel really such a polluter? (Shutdown makes things clearer)

Thu Jul 30, 2020 7:56 pm

I think diesel cars/trucks are the majority of particulate air pollution, the kind of pollution you can see. I think modern aircraft emit little or virtually no particulate pollution, other than at startup. They emit gases such as CO2 that are not at all visible.
 
cpd
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Re: Is air travel really such a polluter? (Shutdown makes things clearer)

Thu Jul 30, 2020 9:25 pm

TheWorm123 wrote:
I live under the MAN flight path where they turn to land on the South-Eastern runway when approaching from the west and I’ve noticed a lot less planes now.

Not much of a sound issue as they’re still usually a few thousand feet up but only a few flights a day.


Sound is the biggest change for me. I live under the flight path of YSSY. I don’t hear planes frequently anymore.

Road traffic was much less for a while too when we had a strict lockdown. That also had a noticeable effect.
 
TheWorm123
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Re: Is air travel really such a polluter? (Shutdown makes things clearer)

Thu Jul 30, 2020 9:51 pm

cpd wrote:
TheWorm123 wrote:
I live under the MAN flight path where they turn to land on the South-Eastern runway when approaching from the west and I’ve noticed a lot less planes now.

Not much of a sound issue as they’re still usually a few thousand feet up but only a few flights a day.


Sound is the biggest change for me. I live under the flight path of YSSY. I don’t hear planes frequently anymore.

Road traffic was much less for a while too when we had a strict lockdown. That also had a noticeable effect.

It was the same here, my biggest concern CO2 wise is road vehicles as there is a lot of more of those than there are planes and most inefficient plane models have been scrapped or retired, in fact one I read that the Concorde used as much fuel just taxiing as a family car would use in 6 months (how true that it is I can’t say).

I like having the planes flying over as it is because when I hear one I immediately grab my phone to check on FR24 to see what it is, usually it’s an A320 but occasionally I get a surprise like an Illuyshin.
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WA707atMSP
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Re: Is air travel really such a polluter? (Shutdown makes things clearer)

Fri Jul 31, 2020 7:07 pm

Whenever anyone tries to shame me for using air travel, I remind them that owning a dog or cat is MUCH worse for the environment than flying on an airplane is.

It takes a lot of energy to grow the crops and animals that get turned into dog food, and transport the dog food to retailers. The energy consumed in the manufacture and distribution of dog food equals the energy consumed by 17 million SUVs.

On the back end, dog feces is a very significant problem, too. The volume of fecal matter spewed out by America's dogs every day equals the volume of trash generated by every human in Massachusetts. When people pick up their dogs' fecal matter, it takes a lot of resources to haul it to a landfill, and the dog excrement that isn't picked up ultimately pollutes our lakes and rivers.

Because cats are smaller, it doesn't take as many resources to feed them. The problem with cats is that when their owners let them out of the house, they kill far too many innocent birds. The most conservative estimate is 750,000 birds every day are killed by pet cats, and many scientists suspect the death toll is much higher.

I tell people (nicely) that if they care about the environment, they should not feel guilty about getting on an airplane, but they SHOULD feel guilty if they own dogs or cats.

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