A couple of weeks ago the campaign group Transport & Environment released some figures on the climate impact of Europe’s airlines. It’s the first time these figures have been compiled, which gives you a sense of how easy it is to gloss over the aviation industry’s contribution to climate change.
Here’s a top five:
- Lufthansa: 19.11 million tonnes of CO2
- British Airways: 18.38
- Air France: 14.39
- Ryanair: 12.28
- KLM: 10.03
These are big and fairly meaningless numbers, so let me put them in context by pointing out that these emissions totals are equivalent to entire countries. Lufthansa’s are around the same as Bolivia or Ghana. Ryanair has the same impact as the whole of Yemen.
In fact, you could make a map of the countries with smaller footprints than these airlines. I’ll choose British Airways because they’re based in the UK. This isn’t exhaustive, because some of the red loops below include more than one principality – but you get the idea. British Airways is a globally significant polluter.
As they’re local to me, I take an interest in Easyjet and their carbon emissions. They’re a smaller airline with 4.83 million tonnes to its name. Here’s an equivalent map for them.
The reason I wanted to make these maps isn’t just to highlight the high emissions of the airlines, but to put them into perspective with the low emissions of developing countries. Just one multinational firm can have the same impact as tens of millions of people in Africa. And yet it is those communities that face the highest risk from climate change, while BA’s passengers and shareholders may be largely oblivious of the worst climate impacts in Africa or in small island states.
Pause to consider who flies and who doesn’t, and where the damage falls, and again we see the inequality that my new book explores: climate change is racist.