Last month I was fortunate enough to present at World Expeditions’ inaugural Responsible Travel Symposium in Sydney. It objective: “to give travellers and travel trade an opportunity to hear from the leaders in the field about current issues in Responsible Travel”. As Climate Friendly’s dedicated account manager for World Expeditions, a world leading trekking and travel company, I was privileged and excited to talk about carbon offsetting for air travel.

Opening slide for the World Expeditions 2014 Responsible Travel Symposium
Opening slide for the World Expeditions 2014 Responsible Travel Symposium

To my positive surprise, the presentation was received very well. The outcome in the room certainly seemed to shift in understanding, and in turn attitude, towards carbon offsetting. These travellers were now aware of where the money goes, that the projects are real and do make a difference, and that it’s a really virtuous thing to do. Critically, it was understood that it’s the only thing a passenger currently can do.

Below is the presentation I delivered, and below are the anecdotes I talked through on the day. Enjoy!

Managing your air travel emissions: my presentation at World Expeditions’ Responsible Travel Symposium

  • Recent research found that ‘Experience seekers’ – those international travellers who value authenticity, adventure, learning and immersion in the local culture and who form an ‘ideal’ visitor segment for the Australian tourism authorities – and nature-based visitors were found to be significantly more likely to offset (See article and infographic on Green Air Online).

  • The slide 3 picture is an original photo taken by myself when I was living in Switzerland. I had never seen so many contrails before, and it was a serious moment of realisation about the significant atmospheric impacts of air travel.
  • The IPCC finds that air travel is 100-1000 grams of Carbon per tonne-km, compared to its nearest rival road travel, which is 10-100 grams. They also find that when jet fuel is burned, the carbon in the fuel is released and bonds with oxygen (O2) in the air to form carbon dioxide (CO2). Burning jet fuel also releases water vapour, nitrous oxides, sulphate, and soot. The IPCC, for example, has estimated that the climate impact of aircraft is two to four times greater than the effect of their carbon dioxide emissions alone. Contrails (seen in previous image) may stay in the sky for many hours, and can spread two kilometres wide before dispersing. The net effect of these contrails is to trap heat that would otherwise escape from the Earth, which contributes to global warming. Studies have shown that night flights have the strongest warming impact, because during the daytime contrails actually reflect some sunlight away from the earth. This is referred to as Radiative Forcing, which we account for in our data calculations.

  • For better explanations of the misconceptions slide (number 5), please click the notes section. But you can start by reading a response I made back in June to a misinformed critic.

  • The “$1 carbon [offsets] produces $664 broader benefits” slide references a major research that I talked about in a previous post.

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