As I write this I’m sitting on a train headed back to Sweden, pondering the result of a year’s experimentation with travelling by train instead of flying. Is this an effective way to reduce my carbon footprint? The jury is in! Read on.
One common rallying cry among climate advocates is to fly less (or ideally not at all). I consider myself a climate advocate (here’s my entry ticket), but I’m also a pragmatist. I’ve worked enough with behavioural change to know that it’s unrealistic to expect many people to change their habits unless there is a convenient and compelling alternative. For example, Spotify killed music pirating, not by attacking pirate sites, but by providing a better and more convenient alternative.
So what are the alternatives to flying, if you want to get from A to B?
Option A:Don’t go. Stay at A. This option won’t fly (pun intended) with most people. There’s a reason why they want to go from A to B, and only a small number of people will be willing to sacrifice that (kudos to those people though!).
Option B:Walk or bicycle. Not feasible. A distance that is long enough to take a flight is usually waaay too long for a walk or bicycle ride, unless you are an enthusiast with LOTS of time on your hands.
Option C:Car. This makes sense only if you travel in a group, or if you drive an electric car. If you drive alone in a fuel car, the climate impact is about the same as flying, just takes longer and is more dangerous and clogs up the road.
Option D: Bus. I haven’t found any long-distance bus options to the places I go. Might be more feasible in other countries than mine.
Option E:Train. Is train a feasible alternative? Definitely climate friendly, but what about price, convenience, reliability, and time? Read on!
The Guardian has made a very illustrative and scary carbon countdown clock that I recommend visiting, just to get a grasp of in how much of a hurry we are to slow down climate change. We need to act now.
Trump withdraws U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement and thereby the U.S. role as a leading country towards a sustainable future. America First seems to mean America Alone, and make America Great Again seems not to include solving global problems and making Our Planet Great Again.
But we still have our hopes up; it just means that the rest of us needs to do quite a bit more – if we are to try to slow down climate change at all. So what can we do? It’s awkwardly easy (on a personal level at least): fly less, eat less meat, invest green, commute green and go climate neutral now.
I found an old newspaper clip from 1912 talking about the possibly dangerous link between carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and climate change. But we continued and accelerated the digging up of extreme amounts of coal from the ground and let it out into the atmosphere. The next generation won’t be very happy with us I’m afraid.
Prof. Kevin Anderson from Uppsala University explains the concept of carbon budget really well in the video “Living within our carbon budget: the role of politics, technology and personal action” on YouTube. It’s a glimpse into the free online course Climate Change Leadership, that I truly can recommend.