This is me in China
in 1996, on a trip to see
where my family came from.That trip was the first time
that I rode in an airplane,
and the first time
that I got stuck in an airport.
We’ve been waiting
here for 9 hours now! Air travel is
one of the great privileges
of living in this century. And the number
of air passengers is expected to double
in the next 20 years. There’s just one problem. Aviation runs on oil,
which contributes to global
climate change.And there’s not
a good alternative yet.
So individual consumers
were left wondering
about their own
These blankets represent
arctic sea ice. Alex:
How many polar bears
did Cleo kill?
Shame arises when our values
don’t line up with our actions.
Oh, this is so embarrassing. Joss:
So, knowing what we know
about the climate crisis,
is it wrong to fly?( theme music playing )Okay, I want you guys
to think back on the past
year of your lives and remember all
of the flights you took, both for work
and for personal trips. I have a marker
for each of you. I want you to draw all
of those flights on these maps. – ( Alex chuckles )
– Amazing. – Let’s see.
– A work trip for a story. – Cleo: DC to Detroit.
– New York to New Orleans. So, this flight right here
is a trip that I took
to Ireland this year, and on the way back,
we flew over the southern
tip of Greenland. And I had the window seat. And when I looked
out the window, this is what I saw. That is a melting ice sheet.It’s probably something
I would never see
except for
in a plane like this.
But the plane
that I was flying in
is one of the reasons that that ice was melting
in the first place.Because air travel
accounts for about 5%
of man-made global warming
in a year.
– Cleo:Whoa.
– Joss:And that impact
will only increase
as more and more people
in Asia to take to the skies.
Okay, well, I have
all of your flight data. – Alex: Yeah.
– Cleo: Uh-oh. I’m going to be running
some calculations on this, and I will be bothering
you all very soon. – Okay.
– All right. – Okay? All right.
– All right.( music playing )Everyone flies
for different reasons. The four of us,
we took 84 flights
in the past year, and almost half of those
were for work. The best way to find out
what impact that has
on the climate is to use
an online calculator that measures
the carbon footprint
of each flight.( music playing )They ask about
your connections
because nonstop flights
typically use fuel
more efficiently.
Something like
a quarter of emissions
are from take off
and landing alone,
so you don’t want
to do that twice if you don’t have to. They also ask
whether you flew economy,business class,
or first class,
because if you’re taking up
more space on the plane, you’re responsible
for more of the fuel use. The folks in first classare causing about five times
the emissions
of the economy passengers.Tsk, tsk, tsk. So, all of our flights
led up to the equivalent of 36.7 metric tons
of CO2. It’s kinda hard
to know what that means because CO2 is invisible.But there was a report
published that shows us
how we can translate
our CO2 emissions
into actual square meters
of melted arctic sea ice.
What we find, I mean,
that basically the observed
sea ice loss is very linearly related to how much CO2 we keep
adding to the atmosphere, such that for about, um,
every metric ton of CO2 we add to the atmosphere, we melt another three square
meters of sea ice.You know, whenever I fly
from London to New York City,
for example,
that’s equivalent to about
a metric ton of CO2.
So then I would melt
about three square meters
every time I flew.
So, basically,
the size of a large
dinner table, I guess.
Where’s Joss? Here’s Alex’s. Where are we going? I have no idea. Do you guys know
where we’re going? – No.
– I have a pretty good guess. I heard a lot of talk
about blankets. – Yeah, yeah, yeah.
– Like picnic blankets? – Mm.
– Is there food there,
is what I’m wondering. Christophe:
I don’t think there
is gonna be food. No? Welcome to the park. How long
have you been here? I spent the night here. – Oh, nice.
– Oh, no. – Not really.
– At least you have blankets. Yeah. You ready to have some fun? Uh, y– I think so. Okay, so, this morning we’re gonna be using
our imagination. So, these blankets
are arctic sea ice. And of course
they’re just blankets that we’re gonna be donating
to Providence House here in Brooklyn
when we’re done. – Nice.
– But for now they’re sea ice. And arctic sea ice,
of course, has been melting due
to man-made global warming. So, we’ll start over here. If you have meat in your diet
for a year in the U.S., you melt this much sea ice. Alex: Oh, my God. And that is actually
the square footage. – Exactly, yes.
– Wow. If you drive a car
for a year in the U.S., Alex, you melt
this much sea ice. – Should I roll this?
– Yeah. Okay. Oh, this is shameful. Whoa. What kind of car
do you drive? I drive a Nissan Silvia. Oh, that’s devastating. You probably drive less
than the average American. Yeah, but it only gets,
like, 16 miles to the gallon. Not great. And this is the ice
that melts from the average American’s
air travel in a year. And that doesn’t
seem like a lot because it’s the equivalent
of just one round trip between New York
and California. But that generates
the same emissions as around four months
of driving. But, of course,
the four of us, we are not
the average flyer. Oh, no. So, we’re gonna go
over there now. – Oof.
– Ours are gonna be huge. – Uh-oh.
– ( chuckles ) – I think I see my pile.
– Yeah, same. Okay, we’re gonna start
with this one. You guys want to help me
fold it out? – Yeah.
– Let’s just start with half. This way,
and then it goes… – Christophe: Oh, my God.
– Alex: Ooh, wow. I was gonna say it’s like
the car, but this is– – This is yours?
– Joss: This is mine. – What?
– Whoa. Oh, no. But this isn’t even, like–
this is just you flying. – This isn’t even you
as an individual with–
– In a year. Right. Okay, now let’s go over
and check this one out. – It’s Alex.
– Alex! – Yeah, that’s me.
– Joss: You did pretty good. Still more than the average
American, though, right? Still more than
the average American. Yeah, I’m like two Americans. Still not good. – Okay, big boy.
– Who could this be? Oh, no! Oh, this is so embarrassing. – Cleo: Whee!
– This just keeps going. Well, I feel terrible. – Okay, let’s do the last one.
– ( Cleo groans ) I like how the number of times
it has to be folded… – Tells you a lot. Right.
– …kind of gives us
an idea. Cleo:
Oh, my God. Alex:
It’s like a small whale. Christophe:
Oh, no. Cleo:
It’s like a big whale. – Well, it’s a lot of ice.
– It’s a lot of ice. Joss: But it’s not really
about any individual. I mean… Like, you flew
all over the place
for work this year. – It is mostly work.
– Yeah. – But still.
– Maybe something
for Vox to think about. Christophe:
Yeah.( music playing )Oh, it’s so heavy. Yeah. Oh, my bad.
( laughs ) Joss:
So, altogether, we flew
on 84 airplanes
in the past year.
– Alex:84 separate airplanes?
– Joss:84 separate airplanes.Do you guys know
how many flights there are
in a year around the world?– Oh, hundreds of thousands?
– In a year? There are 35 million flights
around the world in a year. Christophe:
35 million. Which is almost 100,000
every single day. Huh. – So, let’s go
sit down over here.
– Alex: Yeah. Joss:
And what’s interesting
about that
is that all those flights
are being taken
by a minority
of the world’s population.
– Mm-hmm.
– So, by some estimates, only 20% of humans
have ever flown on an airplane. – Cleo: Whoa.
– Wow. And even within the U.S.,
only about half of Americans fly in a given year. It’s about 12% of adults
in the U.S. that are taking
70% of the flights.
People like us. And that’s where it gets
into the big ethical issue
with climate change, is that the people
who have used the most
fossil fuels generally have more resources to deal with the impacts
of climate change. So we’re talking
about stronger storms, more floods, more droughts,
deadly heat waves. It’s really the world’s poor who are the most vulnerable, and in most cases,
we’re talking about people who have never seen
the inside of an airplane.And some people
are taking this so seriously
that they’re completely
changing the way they travel.
Is this 16-year-old
young lady now the leader of
the climate change movement? Anchor #2:
She is definitely the face.
And she’s given a big push
to the flight shaming
movement. That is you’re called out,
you’re shamed if you fly. So, Joss asked me
to go see Greta Thunberg
arrive in New York City.She’s been sailing
across the Atlantic
for the last two weeks,
I think.
Her trip is a part
of a larger movement
“flygskam,” which is Swedish
for “flying shame.”And, honestly,
it’s kind of working.
In Sweden
and other parts of Europe,people are starting
to brag on social media
about traveling by train
instead of by plane.
And the data shows
that in Swedish airports,
passenger counts
are down as well.
You look great. That diagonal sail,
that’s her. ( crowd chanting )
Greta! Greta! Greta! And she’s about to set foot
on land for the first time. ( crowd cheering ) Greta Thunberg:
Well, all of this
is very overwhelming, and the ground
is still shaking for me. – ( Skype rings )
– Hey. – Hey, Joss.
– So, Umair. You’ve been following
the flight shame movement as it’s been
developing this year. What are some
of the critiques of the shaming approach? Well, in order
to solve climate change, a massive global problem, you really need to be taking
big bites of the apple. And the critique here
is that focusing on what individuals do kind of deflects
the responsibility from the institutional actors that really need to be
making these changes. And when it comes to Greta
specifically, she’s obviously very famous
for avoiding flying, but her message
is a lot broader than that,
isn’t that right? – Oh, absolutely.
– My message is that
we’ll be watching you. The eyes of all future
generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say we will never
forgive you. She does shame grown-ups,
but not about their flying,but about their inaction,and I think if you
are gonna shame people,
that might be
the way to do it. So, this is awkward. In order to finish this story, we are taking a plane
to California–a Boeing 737,
which burns through
about 700 gallons
of jet fuel every hour.
– Not great.
– Pilot: Welcome aboard. – Should be a nice day
for flying. Thank you.
– ( chimes )So, we logged onto a site
that’s a nonprofit organization
that helps you
calculate and offset
your carbon footprint.
So we send them money,and they will be sending it
to Kenya to help provide
more efficient cook stoves for households that would
otherwise be using open fires
to make their food.I don’t think
that offsets our solution
to climate change,
but it’s a good way
of acknowledging
that our consumer choiceshave impacts
around the world,
and our investments
and donations can have
impacts, too.Can you see it?That’s
the Pipistrel ALPHA Electro.
They’re adorable.
I mean, I just want to put
little googly eyes
on the front of that thing.
It’s the world’s first
production electric airplane.
And I’m here in Fresno
to talk to Joseph Oldham,
who is a veteran pilot
who played a big role
in bringing these planes
to California
in order to start
the country’s
first electric flight
training program.
Pretty amazing project. We ran emission
calculations on the reduction
in greenhouse gasesfrom just these
four little aircraft
operating in flight training
operations for a year. And it’s like reducing
carbon emissions by 92 tons, which is pretty
significant – for four little
airplanes, right?
– Mm-hmm. This right here
is the motor. – Just this right here?
– That. – Just that.
– Wow, it’s like three inches. Yeah, it’s–
it’s very small. And then these
are the battery packs. There’s two of these. There’s one up here
in this front compartment, and then there’s
a second compartment
behind the pilot. Joss: So, to charge up,
so you have an hour of charge,
you said it was $5? – Joseph:Four.
– Joss:$4 to charge
this airplane.
Yeah, and that’s at 25 cent
a kilowatt hour.
But you go to some places
like Seattle,
they get all their power
from hydro,
and it’s six, seven cents
a kilowatt hour. ( distant plane humming ) That’s not an electric
plane, is it? No, it’s not
an electric plane, no. – It’s a pretty
comfortable seat.
– Joseph: It is. Now we’re basically
ready to go. – So, the plane is on now?
– Yes, the plane is on now. Oh, my gosh,
it’s so quiet. – What’s up?
– I have to run
along side you guys. – You have to?
– ‘Cause the wireless range. – Oh, it doesn’t go that far.
– No, not that far. Can you just go, like,
half that speed? Okay.
Sorry about that. Okay. That was fun. For us.
Not so much for you, huh? – Got some exercise?
– Yeah. Joseph:
Okay, loud and clear
over here. Very good. ( Joss gasps )
There he goes. Wow, that was quick. Joss:
And besides the reduction
in emissions, what are some other benefits
of having an electric motor in an airplane? And what do you think
is the main factor holding back sort of the
improvement in the batteries so that we can get these
into bigger planes? There he goes.
Right there. So cool. Nice and easy. – Hey.
– Hey, how’s it–
oh, is that a plane? So, I got to go
to California for this story ’cause we’re looking
into the future of flying, and what I got to see there
was an electric airplane. It’s just a small
two-seater plane that can
fly for about 80 minutes. – Cool.
– But that’s
on batteries alone. – Oh, wow.
– Yeah. – No fuel?
– No fuel, just– – That’s great.
– Yeah, electricity. And those batteries
weigh this much. Can you lift this? ( chuckles )
I– I can’t lift it. Oof. They’re heavy, right? Yeah, they’re
25-pound plates. What are you gonna do
with these after? – We’re gonna return them.
– Oh, thanks. So, this weighs
106 kilograms, which is 230 pounds. – Metric system. I like it.
– Yes. And to fly the same distance in a gasoline-powered
version of that plane… – Mm-hmm.
– …the fuel weighs
just this much. – Whoa.
– So, when people say
that fossil fuels are really energy dense,
this is what they’re
talking about. – Hmm.
– So, this difference becomes really challenging
when you move to bigger planes. Yeah, I bet.
Oh, that one’s huge. ( laughs )
This is a Boeing 737, which is the kind of plane
I took to get to California. – Cool.
– And that trip burned
about this much jet fuel, which is made out of kerosene,
it’s a fossil fuel. The same amount
of energy in batteries would take up
this much space. Ah, you couldn’t even
fit that on there. I know, look at the people
compared to the battery. – It’s gigantic.
– Yeah. And this battery
would weigh at least 20 times more
than the liquid fuel. And seven times more
than the airplane itself. Yeah, and for the jet fuel,
it’s going to burn off, but for the batteries,
they’re going to stay the same weight
the entire flight. Right, it doesn’t
get lighter during the flight like the liquid fuel does. So, the good news
is that batteries
are getting better. – Nice.
– Between 2008 and 2015, the energy density
of batteries nearly doubled, and experts predict
that, in about 30 years, this plane could fly electric
from New York to Chicago. Wow. But there’s a problem. Oh, no. 80% of emissions
from airplanes come from flights that are
longer than that. Aw, that sucks. Is there anyone working
on what’s going to happen in the future? Is there a super battery
coming up that’s going to just change
the way we utilize this energy? The battery that’s
sort of en vogue right now is your lithium ion battery. It’s what’s in electric cars, it’s what’s in
all of our cell phones. But some researchers
are looking into completely
different chemistries. So, whether it’s electric
planes or hybrids or biofuels, it’s just gonna be some time
before we can engineer away
these emissions. And that’s because our
industries were built on energy dense fuels
that had been locked underground
for millions of years. ( imitates plane flying ) So, is it wrong to fly? The short answer,
from my perspective, is no. We need mobility.
We have to have mobility. But we need to find
ways of doing it without emitting
more carbon emissions. Joss:
Climate change
implicates us all
in a planet-sized injustice.If I fly, if I drive,
if I heat or cool my home,
if I buy stuff,
if I eat stuff,
all of this now has a cost
that I’m not paying.
But what’s more shameful
than participating in a world that was built
for fossil fuels is doing nothing
to help bring about
a world that isn’t. You know, start thinking
about what kinds of decisions you’re making
for your society around you. You know, should we invest
more in trains or should we create
more charging infrastructure
for electric cars? Joss:
The candidates you support
at a local or national level,
the infrastructure
that you’re willing to pay for.
I would say we can be judicious
about how we fly.Try to look
for more direct flights,
try to minimize stopovers,and certainly rethink
flying unnecessarily
for things that
we could easily replace
with Skype meetings, as we’re doing right now. Joss:
We’re not going
to solve climate change
by staying on the ground.But if I’m not part
of the solution, then I’m only part
of the problem. And, yeah, that’s wrong. To see more episodes
of our show, click here to the right. And for more great learning
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on the bottom right. Thanks for watching.