Although aviation is a relatively small industry, it has a disproportionately large impact on the climate system. It presently accounts for four to nine per cent of the total climate change impact of human activity.
Compared to other modes of transport, such as driving or taking the train, travelling by air has a greater climate impact per passenger kilometre, even over longer distances. It's also the mode of freight transport that produces the most emissions.
Learn more about air travel and climate change.
What can I do?
Because the climate impacts of air transportation are at present not adequately regulated under national or international laws, the onus is on individuals and businesses to limit their flying unless absolutely necessary. This needn't be as drastic as it sounds:
- Consider taking a vacation closer to home — or even being a tourist in your own town. You'll save money and avoid the stress of airport security, travelling to and from the airport, and sitting in those tiny seats. Most of us live in places that tourists from elsewhere visit, so take a holiday in your hometown or region and find out what it has to offer.
- Use other modes of transport where possible. Trains and buses, for example, are much more energy efficient than airplanes, and for regional trips can even be faster when airports are factored in. Even cars can be more efficient than planes — especially with more than one passenger.
- Use video-conferences for meetings. The David Suzuki Foundation is doing it, and so are companies like Swiss Re and IKEA who use video-conferencing to reduce business air travel. Companies benefit from decreased costs at the same time that they're helping the planet. Employees avoid the stress of travelling and time away from home and family.
- Use webcams to keep in touch with family and friends who live far away.
- Contact your political representatives, tell them you're concerned about the contribution of aviation to global climate change, and ask them to take action to regulate and limit greenhouse gas emissions from this sector.
If you do have to fly:
- Try to minimize the number of flights you take by combining trips. For example, book more than one meeting in your destination city, so you don't need to fly there several times.
- Fly the most direct route possible, since take-offs and landings use the most fuel.
- Fly during the daytime, because studies have shown that flights taken at night have a greater impact on the climate.
- Fly economy, because more people per plane means fewer emissions per person.
- Pack light, because lighter planes mean less fuel is burned.
- Purchase carbon offsets to account for the emissions from your flight. See our carbon neutral webpage for more information. If the airline or travel agent you are using doesn't currently offer its customers the option of offsetting their flights, ask them to consider it.
What is the David Suzuki Foundation doing?
In 2010, the David Suzuki Foundation installed videoconferencing equipment in all of its offices. We also rely on teleconferencing for many of our meetings, and look for ways to minimize travel to conferences, training sessions and other functions where possible. For flights that cannot be avoided, we purchase high quality carbon offsets.