We all know that air travel has an environmental impact, and many companies now include offsetting their air travel carbon footprint as one of their green business practices. However, this is not as easy as it may seem. Carbon emissions are not the only impact from air travel, and different offset calculators use a different methodology to determine how much they should be compensated for. In addition, the level of your personal emissions also varies depending on the distance traveled, the type of aircraft, and the flying business or economy. This article will help you understand some of the different factors that contribute to your personal air travel carbon footprint.
Aircrafts run on fossil fuels that emit CO2 into the atmosphere. There are various opinions as to how air travel contributes to global CO2 emissions, ranging from 2% to 10%. CO2 emissions are not only a problem, but aircraft also release water vapor, nitrogen oxides and methane. Their environmental impact is higher when released at altitude than would be at ground level. Although these effects are not fully understood, it is generally agreed that radiative forcing must be used when determining the impact of air travel. R-ray forcing is the velocity at which a given atmospheric gas changes the radiation entering the atmosphere.
Not all emission meters include a radiant force factor in their calculations, which underestimates the environmental impact of the flight. To make it even more complicated, there are various opinions on what should be the radiative power factor. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) proposes a radiative power factor of 2.7, and this seems to be the most commonly used. So, for a more accurate assessment of the impact of your flights, you want to choose a calculator that incorporates radial force, but the story doesn't stop there.
There are a number of other variables that affect your individual emissions. First, what path did the path take, and is it long or short? Short-haul flights are generally caused by less fuel because of the fuel consumed during unloading and landing, but they also cause less condensation trails (water vapor) due to the shorter time spent at high altitude. The type of aircraft will also affect the level of flight emissions, as the new model aircraft tends to be more fuel efficient.
As for the emissions that each passenger is responsible for, it will depend on whether the flight is complete and whether the person is a traveling economy or a business. If the flight is not fully occupied, each person will have to compensate for a higher level of emissions to offset the full impact of the flight, and if you are traveling in the business class, you will have more room and be responsible for a larger percentage of the emissions.
As you can see, the calculation of emissions to compensate for air travel is not as advanced as the first, although understanding factors contributing to personal emission levels from air travel gives you a better understanding of how the environment affects your travel decisions.