The End of Air Travel

Ho-Yeol Ryu Airport 2005.

As the issue of global warming takes on increasing urgency, and as fuel costs continue to sky-rocket, the universality / ubiquity of inexpensive air travel is increasingly being called into question.

George Monbiot, Guardian columnist and author of “Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning” wants to ground plane travel immediately, which, he states, is “the greatest future cause of global warming”. Aviation accounts for only 2% of total human carbon emissions, but because planes travel so high, their effect on global warming is near tripled.

He suggests that with India and China’s middle class set to take to the air, the global airline industry expects passengers to double to 9 billion in twenty-five years, offsetting all carbon emissions reductions other industries might be able to implement.

airport aerial

James Howard Kunstler, author of “The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century” suggests that commercial airlines will probably fail within the next five years, as fuel costs soar. He argues that the air travel we currently enjoy is for the most part a luxury, not a necessity, and in the future, we will live in a far less affluent society, where air travel will be the purvey of the very wealthy.

In the most apocalyptic visions, post-peak oil will send fuel prices sky-rocketing, re-structuring our economies, toppling governments, altering national boundaries and redefining modern, civilized life as we know it. Are we indeed at the start of the post-global era, where the world will begin to shrink again.

[via Grounded, The Walrus (July/Aug 2008)]

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