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Greenhouse Gas Inventory w/Airline Travel
General News · 5th December 2009
Cortes Climate Action Team
Airline travel can dramatically increase personal greenhouse gas emissions. The Cortes Island Greenhouse Gas inventory does not account for airline travel due to insufficient information. And it turns out that no other inventory (community, provincial, national or Kyoto) accounts for these emissions either. Nonetheless, the impact of airline travel on climate change is large and should be acknowledged. A conservative estimate for Cortes Islanders is an additional 3 tonnes of CO2eq per person per year, taking the total to 15.6 tonnes. A brief addendum to the original inventory, describing airline travel emissions, can be found here:

The Cortes Climate Action Team gratefully acknowledges the assistance of Barry and Carrie Saxifrage in preparing this addendum.

The single most important thing we can do to reduce our personal greenhouse gas emissions is not fly. Plain and simple.
Comment by romina on 28th December 2009
I really admire your stance Bruce. My hat goes off in much respect. It is hard to choose not to fly especially with family involved. I too have given up jet fuel, and while I am content here, wonder in the future how I will arrive at certain destinations I still dream of. Train and boat options are more appealing, and I'd love to see as much lobbying go into making Canadian Train travel and public transport cheap and accessible as does pointing fingers at tar sands, which I do not support either. We all must share responsibility. Why ask a fat cat CEO to give up their perks when we don't want to give up ours? I am so glad that I am on an island with so many progressive thinkers aimed at change.

Lots of local food for thought in all these posts.

viva la bicycle,
Comment by Carol Trueman on 17th December 2009
This year we chose to fly, after two winters of driving to Mexico. Richard had not flown since 1968, and I have visited the UK four times since moving to Canada in 1963, so we decided it was safer and all in all better this way.

Since arriving in Dec. we have used the excellent buses to get around. Also we are using bicycles in Playa Del Carmen. Provided by the landlord. The food is local, and we feel that we are probably balancing out our carbon footprint by being fairly aware Cortesians.

I figured if we drove our car to Mexico one more time we probably would have to buy another car as it is getting old and a long drive to Mexico would probably finish it off. This way it lasts longer.

I agree with Robert regarding children. That issue is being very much downplayed probably due to no one wanting to offend religions. It is the biggest. And don't forget all those dear children of meat eating parents will grow up to add to our planets burden. Pigs, Cows and chickens. All lining up in the slaughter houses to be killed for our ever expanding appetites and waistlines.

Someone below suggested 20 hours driving to get the carbon calculation. I know it took us 8 days of 6 hours driving a day to just get halfway down Mexico, that’s 48 hours ONE WAY, no return. I believe going all the way to Cancun or Playa del Carmen would add another 5 days. Driving in Mexico IS SLOWER! (PS we were in the air just 5 hours, compare that with a possible 78 hours and all the other saving of us not being on Cortes, as per the reasons Robert mentions)

Anyway I can go on and on justifying my winter escape. But I do think there's a lot of guilt flinging going on. The issue is so huge. The will to change politically so fraught with problems, we should just do the best we can.
longer trips
Comment by Shane Nelson on 12th December 2009
I would have to agree that a long trip is better than a short one. Even I would agree that driving to Mexico may be better for the climate than staying in Canada and heating a home, importing food and riding ferries. All the benefits of going to Mexico for the winter would be amplified if you also stayed there for the summer.

I'm sure I read somewhere that a tree takes nearly as long to break down as it did to grow. It is entirely possible that the 50/50/50 thing is off, but perhaps a good enough approximation to illustrate a point. Yes an older tree would take longer to decompose. I suppose it is probably also based on the type of tree - cedar taking longer than alder or fir, and and trees damaged by ants and woodpeckers decomposing faster.

When a tree decomposes some will be lost to the atmosphere and some will be trapped in the soil. Even the stuff released into the air will eventually find its way back into other trees and the soil. When burned it will also be released into the air and eventually find its way back into the soil and other trees.

The c02 released from burning oil will likely never again find its way deep below the earth
enjoy your trip :)
Comment by Shane Nelson on 11th December 2009
I hope you enjoy your trip. BTW I do agree - overpopulation is a big part of global warming and that reducing the number of children we have is a key to solving this problem. Anyone who chooses to have no kids should be given a medal of honour.

Even if my carbon to cancun numbers are out by 100% it is still more efficient driving a family of four in a 10 year old car than flying. New cars, of course, would be even more efficient.

More efficient yet if you take a bus. I hear the buses in Mexico are really comfy, much better than Greyhound.

As for the trees it takes 50 years for a 50 year old tree to capture 50 years worth of carbon. When it gets blown over, at 50 years old, it takes about another 50 years to decompose and release all that carbon. The cycle repeats. I can speed it up by burning the tree but the effect on atmospheric carbon is minimal as the carbon is already part of the current carbon cycle.

As for the oil, it took thousands of years to capture that carbon below the earth. It has been captured for thousands of years. When you release it it becomes part of the current carbon cycle and will take thousands of years to be locked away again.

Burning oil creates a real long term increase in the amount of carbon in the carbon cycle. Burning trees creates a short increase in the amount of carbon in the atmosphere but no change in the amount in the current carbon cycle.

If you are truly worried about particles from your wood stove you could buy one with a catalytic converter.
carbon to cancun
Comment by Shane Nelson on 10th December 2009
Two people flying direct from Vancouver to Cancun use more c02 per person than the same people driving a 1998 toyota tercel. Four people traveling by car is way more efficient than flying.

Flying direct from Vancouver to Cancun is 2776 miles. The driving route would be less direct so we would have to add some extra carbon for that.

1998 toyota tercel gets 35mpg.
79.31 gallons of gas
20 pounds of c02 per gallon of gas
= 1586.2 pounds of c02
= 0.719 tonnes per car.

flight to cancun is .44 tonnes, per person.

Assuming a couple in the old Toyota and we get .3595 tonnes per person. Better than flying, but not by much.

If it was my family that decided to go to Mexico, a family of four, our emissions would actually be .17975 tones per person driving compared to .44 tonnes per person flying. Even if we spent a lot of time lost and driving in circles it would still be less carbon by driving.

Really though, instead of driving or flying to Mexico I'm going to stay home and eat out of my freezer and winter garden, all the while planning next summers bonanza.

A cord of firewood gives off 3.02 metric tonnes of c02 BUT this is c02 captured in the last 20-50 years, and will be recaptured in the same time frame. Burning jet fuel, or vehicle fuel, is like burning fossilized c02. This stuff has been captured and stored deep in the earth. Once released it wil be added to the modern day carbon cycle, and probably be with us for lifetimes. Assuming you only burn windfall, that cord of firewood would naturally be released into the carbon cycle over the course of 20-50 years.

airline travel
Comment by bruce hipkin on 7th December 2009
Hi climate action committee:

I'm so pleased to see the inclusion of airline travel greenhouse gas emissions added to the Cortes Island Greenhouse Gas inventory. With folks from Cortes flying all over the world, it makes complete sense to me that long-range aircraft emissions should be somehow included in the inventory. It's interesting to note, when viewing the new pie-chart with airline emissions included, that those emissions now account for the second largest chunk of the pie. So, what to do about it?

Two years ago, as a result of considering how we could dramatically cut-down on our own emissions, we determined that it was critical for us NOT to fly. Since then we have not, and we will not be doing so in the future. For me, the results of this determination are these: since the bulk of my close relatives live in the UK I have come to sadly accept that I will probably never see them again. Fact is, I chose to leave England 43 years ago, and have since chosen to make Cortes Island my home. Thank goodness for the internet with its capability of sending multi-media messages instantaneously to pretty well anywhere on the planet, so that we can still share in each other's lives. But this island is now my village, my home. For me, my friends and neighbours have become my new family. As well, If not flying will help to ensure that our planetary home will be a healthier one for my children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and on and on into the future, then so be it - I'd rather my choices be part of "the solutions for a healthy planet" rather than be part of "actions possibly resulting in an unhealthier planet". Some folks might say I'm crazy and that one family's determination not to fly won't make a difference. I say it will. If the word spreads and more and more of us take to heart the notion of not flying, then real changes WILL take place. More power to the people!

Thanks for making the change to the Cortes Island Greenhouse Gas Inventory. You have my vote of approval.
Bruce Hipkin.