Travel With Climate Change

The Climate Change Collective

I am so pleased that we have established a blogging network which aims to keep climate change at the forefront of conversations. Our Climate Change Collective has already written two wonderful posts and now it is my turn to discuss the subject of transport, with a particular focus on how it impacts on the environment.

A Quick History Of The Climate Change Collective

The Climate Change Collective was born out of an exchange that took place when Michelle (EcoBoomer) left a comment on a blog post of mine back in summer. Michelle and I both care deeply about the impact of human activity on our planet and wanted to find a way to keep the climate change message at the top of everyone’s considerations. So we thought we would get a group of like-minded bloggers together and produce monthly articles.

We have several eco-bloggers in our blogging community, so Michelle tweeted to see what kind of interest there would be in a climate-change-related blogging collaboration…and the Climate Change Collective was born! (Full credit to Alison from A Sustainably Simple Life for coming up with the name.)

If you’re a blogger and would like to join our collective, please get in touch. The more the merrier!

Back To The Climate

When I studied my Geography degree back in 1996, I had found a course where the lecturers were already very aware of the threat of global warming. I was able to select subjects that centred on this and one such module was linked to Environmental Transport Management.

Anyway, as a result I became immersed in studies that were fresh and worrying at a time when climate change was just an occasional throw away comment on a BBC wildlife documentary. At the time few people knew about global warming and many who did refused to believe it possible. Some famous people actually mocked the scientists who bravely suggested it existed.

Transport – One Of The Biggest Climate Threats

First of all I want to talk about islands. Many people operate as if they are on islands these days. They have a home island, a work island, a ‘going out’ island and a shopping island. They hop in a vehicle and whizz between each island as if they are all disconnected.

One such example is children going to school. Often we find kids get in the car, distract themselves with devices and then arrive at school, almost magically. Then they hop into a car and nip to cubs or scouts or another hobby island before possibly visiting ‘grandma’ island. Often these islands are not very far away from one another.

Alongside this there are lots of issues. First, of course, pollution is highest during peak times and especially around schools where lots of cars are parking and stalling, queueing and congesting. Additionally, children are not getting the exercise they need before and after school, which would have woken them up ready for learning.

As well as this, kids have no idea about crossing the road safely, socialising with friends on the way to school and appreciating their own community and habitat. Instead they are largely absorbed by iPads and electronic games. As a teacher I often find kids don’t even know if they have a packed lunch in their bags as mostly they don’t even pack it themselves.

Independence is what we are losing.

Pollution is what we are gaining.

Statistically there is no increased safety risk when walking anywhere other than accidents caused by the unnecessary local traffic. In fact, the streets were much more welcoming when full of people walking and cycling to and from school and work. Walking to school never did me any harm.

Scaling It Up

So if we look at the global scale and think about unnecessary travel, we find the island theory (which I cannot allocate to one person – it is merely my take on what I discovered when reading around this issue) is still front and centre.

Many people move from one city to the next and one country to the next as if it has no consequence. Flying around for meetings, for quick getaways or just for the sake of it, has become second nature for many of us. People are always looking for the fastest way to get from one distant place to another.

Convenience Is The Problem

The last place I flew to. A place of excess and convenience.

After flying to Vegas in 2014 I had read some articles that made me realise I had to stop flying. I couldn’t justify it any longer and so made a pact with myself to only travel over land or sea from then on. I have kept to that but it takes a lot of effort.

Why bother?

Looking at all of the sources of pollution, there is one thing that grabs me about air travel. Planes pump greenhouse polluting gases right into the upper atmosphere.

Aeroplane average emissions of CO2: 92kg per hour per passenger. (Source: https://www.carbonindependent.org/22.html)

It is as if we are injecting pollution directly into the layer where it can do the worst damage. There is no chance of it being recirculated or absorbed by plants and trees. It is exactly where it needs to be to add to the insulating layer of greenhouse gases that are blanketing our lovely planet.

There are cleaner options such as Eurostar. I have become a fan of travelling by train and look forward to a time when the electricity generated to power trains is completely fossil fuel free. For now, I am impressed by Eurostar because they cover large distances in comfort and make far less environmental impact.

Source: eurostar.com

I am not sponsored by Eurostar but just thought their chart was interesting and useful. I use all sorts of trains to get around Europe, and although it is not always convenient, this mode of transport needs further investment until it becomes a preferred and most convenient method for getting between cities.

I hope that the USA can also invest in a rail network as I was shocked when I looked at flight trackers and saw the astonishing amount of planes flying interstate at any given time. During Covid, Europe’s skies cleared of planes but America was still full of flights.

In A Nutshell

None of this is comfortable to talk about. It is absolutely not easy to make changes that may benefit the climate. We cannot just always resort to convenience when travelling.

But we can suggest a conference is held over zoom instead of requiring several people to fly around the world for a meeting (or jolly).

We can consider enjoying a train ride to get to our holiday destinations.

And we can get up ten minutes earlier and encourage young people to walk or cycle to school, perhaps even strolling to the shops, saving those awful car park charges.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this article. Opinions are my own, based on ny experiences and geographical studies. Please support the Climate Change Collective by commenting and sharing our articles.

23 thoughts on “Travel With Climate Change

  1. I really wish Canada had good options for travel other than flights. I absolutely love train travel in Europe and feel like it gives a better experience than jumping on a plane. So fascinating to see that chart of flights vs train trips.

  2. Thanks for commenting. I heard there was a lovely train through the Rockies which I would love to go on. You are right that railways need building.

  3. Thanks for this Jamie. I wish we had better train options in North America. In Canada, part of it is down to a large geographic area with a small population, and there is a cross-over point at which flying is more environmentally friendly than driving, but flying seems to be our default.

    Many people are averse to taking public transportation on a day-to-day basis, but they will fly for vacations at the drop of a hat. Governments also need to do more to support mass transit and provide incentives for people to use it. And corporations need to fully embrace virtual meetings, and put travel policies in place to support more eco-friendly transportation choices when available.

    I smiled at your picture of Vegas. Having just returned from there for a work-related trip, I agree with your comments about it being a place of excess.

  4. I want to go to lots of places but we do need to make extra effort to change our travel plans. It was painful when a tree fell on a track near Hamburg and delayed my trip to Copenhagen by a day. Sadly we need a little inconvenience until ecofriendly options become convenient. No gain without pain. Haha

  5. Very thought provoking article. It has made me think about when I use a car but could walk to places.

  6. You raise some really great points about travel and I know that the industry itself has the knowledge to come up with more eco-friendly options (as it is already starting to do in some areas). I think making sure that meetings or conferences are done over zoom, etc is a great point (covid lock downs proved it can be done) — not everything requires us to hop on a plane or travel far and wide!

  7. My husband and I don’t travel a lot, not even at home. We tend to go short distances in the car and either walk or get the train the rest of the way. But where we live is in a small village with little to no public transport links so we at least need a set of wheels to get to public transport or a safe walk/cycle route.

  8. I would say I don’t know a lot about travel climate change because I don’t travel a lot. China and some counties in Asia as well have it. It would be nice to have it in US and Cananda.

  9. This is a great article. I really wish the US did more to create public transportation and also trains. This has been a topic for so many years and it never gets solved. Very informative article thank you for sharing! I love living in Europe I would always prefer the train but they also need to lower the prices. But in Germany it’s about price instead of convenience. For example, Munich to Berlin it’s cheaper to fly for 80-120 EUR in 1.5 hours and I paid 200 EUR for the fast train last summer (before the energy crisis), which is supposed to be 4 hours but it broke down. Not as bad as usual tho. But they keep increasing prices and it’s upsetting to everyone because inside Germany most people would prefer train rather than flying..

  10. What a great initiative. Congratulations, I look forward to reading more about your concerns and suggestions. The info-graphic you shared is very enlightening. I choose a train whenever possible, even if it takes longer to get to my destination.

  11. I learned a lot from your article. Reminds me to do my bit to help the environment. Walking to places and limiting future travel reachable by train would be a start.

  12. It was great reading your post for the Climate Change Collective.
    I love living in Denmark especially my city because I can walk with my daughter to school, walk to the grocery stores, walk downtown to the shops, etc. Then if I want to go Copenhagen or on a weekend getaway to Sweden, I can with the train.
    It is terrible that there isn’t enough being done in the US. Many people fly because the US is so big so it is a lot quicker than driving and there isn’t a good rail system.

Leave a Reply