How Air Travel Impacts the Climate (& What We Can Do About It)
(Un)Fun Fact: Carbon Emissions from Plane Travel Are Contributing to the Climate Crisis
Did you know that driving, flying, and other travel-related activities consume energy and produce carbon emissions that are harmful to the environment? In 2019 alone, commercial flights produced 920 million tons of carbon dioxide. In fact, experts at the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) say commercial air travel and large business jets currently account for 3% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
For those of us who have been out of school for a while, here’s a quick refresher: greenhouse gases are gases that trap heat in the atmosphere. As the primary greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide is responsible for about 65% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately, CO2 can linger in our atmosphere for thousands of years.
So, how does this impact our environment and health? Greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide contribute to severe changes in global weather patterns by trapping heat and causing extreme weather, such as deadly heatwaves and droughts, intense flooding, record-breaking hurricanes, and more frequent and destructive wildfires. Other severe impacts to the climate include rising sea levels, warming oceans, and smog and air pollution.
These types of events can lead to injury and illness (such as respiratory and cardiovascular disease and injury or death related to extreme weather events), displacement of human and animal populations, property and infrastructure damage, food supply disruptions, and more.
More Bad News: Carbon Dioxide Emissions Are Expected to Triple by 2050
Planes are becoming more efficient with every new design, but the increasing demand for flights is outpacing these advancements.
According to the climate policy experts at Carbon Brief, “Airlines estimate that air travel will grow by an average of just under 5% per year up to 2034 – and the emissions from these extra air miles will be difficult to decarbonize.”
If unmitigated, the Environmental and Energy Study Institute anticipates that commercial aircraft emissions could triple by 2050. Even more alarming: the Global Carbon Project estimates that the remaining carbon budget for 1.5C (the amount of CO2 that can still be emitted for a 50% chance of staying below 1.5C of warming) will be blown in just nine years – or even sooner.
How You Can Be a More Eco-Friendly Traveler
Compensate for Your Carbon Footprint Through Carbon Offsetting
Have you heard of carbon offsetting? Basically, it works like this: When you buy a carbon offset, you purchase a commitment from an organization to fund an equivalent reduction or removal of carbon dioxide elsewhere. This allows you to essentially “cancel out” the negative impact on your travel in other parts of the world.
There are carbon offset programs that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and projects that aim to prevent greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere in the first place. Some carbon offset examples include planting trees, using more efficient vehicles for transportation, insulating buildings to reduce heat loss, and replacing coal-fueled power plants with renewable energy sources such as wind and solar farms.
Essentially, carbon offsetting allows you to balance your carbon emissions by paying to save emissions elsewhere.
We’re Making It Easy to Neutralize Your Carbon Emissions
We know climate change can be scary and carbon offsetting can seem complicated. That’s why we’ve partnered with Patch to make it easy for you to cancel out your carbon emissions.
Patch is a platform that powers climate action by allowing you to easily purchase carbon offsets that neutralize the environmental impact of your air travel. In just a few clicks, you can help fund one of the world’s best carbon offset programs – like Rimba Raya's forest protection project in Brazil – to compensate for the emissions from your upcoming trip. All carbon credits are vetted by Patch to ensure your carbon neutrality.
Cerrado Biome REDD+ Forest Protection (Goiás, Brazil)
Rimba Raya is dedicated to protecting Brazil's second largest biome and one of the most biodiverse savannah regions in the world with its Cerrado biome project.
This project is located in the Cerrado biome of Brazil and aims to protect and preserve native forests and grasslands from commercial agriculture and cattle ranching, which have caused a nearly 50% loss in native vegetation since 1985.
The project will generate carbon credits that can be sold as an alternative source of income for landholders, with some of the revenue invested in local communities for environmental education, professional skill development, research, and workers' safety improvements.
The project is expected to initially generate 100,000 carbon credits per year and scale to 500,000 carbon credits per year over 30 years. It will also provide protection for the region's biodiversity, including endangered species found nowhere else. (You can see Rimba Raya's verified carbon standard for this project here.)
The Cerrado biome project will further incentivize communities in developing countries to keep their forest standing and adopt sustainable forest management techniques.
Together, we believe we can make responsible choices that minimize our travel footprint and create a more sustainable Earth for future generations of travelers.
- A partner when you need it. Contact us anytime and from anywhere. Our multilingual customer support team is on call 24/7 to answer your questions if an emergency arises.
- A plan to fit you. Choose from several different types of travel insurance with varying coverage levels and optional upgrades to create personalized coverage for your trip.
- Proof of coverage. Proof of coverage will be delivered to you immediately upon purchase. Easily access your insurance card and visa letter to prove you have coverage throughout your entire trip.
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WorldTrips’ Atlas Travel Series and StudentSecure international travel medical insurance products are underwritten by Lloyd's. WorldTrips has authority to enter into contracts of insurance on behalf of the Lloyd's underwriting members of Lloyd's Syndicate 4141, which is managed by HCC Underwriting Agency, Ltd.
WorldTrips' Atlas Journey, Atlas Cruiser, and Atlas On-The-Go trip protection insurance products are underwritten by Tokio Marine HCC's U.S. Specialty Insurance Company (USSIC). USSIC is a Texas-domiciled insurance company operating on an admitted basis throughout the United States. Coverage is available to U.S. residents of the U.S. states and District of Columbia only. This plan provides insurance coverage that only applies during the covered trip. You may have coverage from other sources that provides you with similar benefits but may be subject to different restrictions depending upon your other coverages. You may wish to compare the terms of this policy with your existing life, health, home, and automobile insurance policies. Coverage may not be available in all states.
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