[part of a series of posts on my carbon footprint: https://flowingmu.wordpress.com/sustainability/]
Flying is more carbon-intensive than other forms of transport. That is the pretty consistent message from those who know. And, short-haul flights are less efficient – presumably due to less time spent flying at optimal altitudes, relatively more time burning fuel while on the runway etc, and relatively more fuel per passenger.
I personally remember hearing that new generations of planes had knocked the bicycle off it’s perch as the most energy-efficient machines, but have not looked into the full calculations of whoever worked that out. What I do know is that the planes pollute straight in to the upper atmosphere, which can have three times the warming impact of pollution released at ground level. Two other factors contributing to plane travel being targeted are the large number of ‘discretionary’ flights, and the rapid rate of growth in air travel overall:
“Even if we decarbonised the entire rest of the UK economy – shut down every factory, switched off every light – we’d still miss our modest target of a 60 per cent cut in emissions by 2050 just because of the growth in the amount we fly.” says Plane Stupid
Additionally concerning are the concessions given to the airline industry that enable it to out-compete other modes of transport. For example, there is no tax on aviation fuel. If it was taxed at the same rate as automobile fuels, it would add about £800 to the cost of flying to Australia.
A recent victory in the political fight to reduce the impact of flying is that aviation is included in the UK’s new climate bill
And you can read more about aviation campaign group Plane Stupid’s co-founder’s thoughts here: http://www.theecologist.co.uk/pages/archive_detail.asp?content_id=700