According to a new study, a huge amount of atmospheric warming is caused by the cloud-like vapor trails – or “contrails” – that planes leave in their wake when flying at high altitude. These are created when vaporised water condenses or freezes around sooty exhaust particles to create cirrus-type clouds. These can persist for hours, but are too thin to reflect warmth. Instead, ice crystals within them trap heat, warming the planet. Researchers from the Institute of Atmospheric Physics in Germany estimate that aircraft vapor trails typically have twice the warming impact of CO2 emissions. And as air traffic increases, the problem will only get worse. In a paper published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, they argue that the industry cannot solely focus on aircraft fuel efficiency; they must also acknowledge and address the currently overlooked problem of contrails. (The Week, 13 July 2019)
This raises the questions of hypocrisy, in this case my own. I happen to live between America and Britain. In the old days one would go by passenger ship . The last time I did that it took 7 days and the funnel smoke belched out non-stop. But I was young . It was fun. Now I fly. Every time I book a flight I am roiled in guilt and misgivings. Here I am bemoaning climate change, which is heavily affected by planes flying in all directions, and I am very well aware of what the plane is doing every mile of its journey. I tell myself that, were my wife and I no longer flying, it would make not the a slightest difference – the airlines would happily continue fouling the air. But I am not practicing what I preach. There! It is out in the open.
Do you do things you didn’t ought to? Do you eat beef or go on fancy foreign holidays, or drive a car every day of your life? If so, drop me a line on this blog – I need to feel better about it all.