Is this "fully automated luxury whataboutism"?

A thread on misconceptions around flying and its climate impact
Playing down the significance of an emission sector because it's just 2 or 3% is *never* a good idea - see paper & thread here
It is *particularly inappropriate* to use that argument for air travel, for many reasons.

1. Air travel is incredibly *carbon intensive*. Perhaps the most carbon intensive way in which to use your time. If you fly, it probably accounts for a very large share of your emissions
How can flying be so carbon intensive, and still just 3% of emissions overall?

Simples - because *very few people do it*. Air travel is incredibly unequally distributed.

[you would expect self-proclaimed 'communists' to be sensitive to that BTW!]
So saying: "it's just 3% we shouldn't worry to much about it" it's a bit like saying: "I know peeing in the swimming pool is bad but as most people except me & my mates don't do it, urine will not be more than 3% of the pool, what's the big deal?"
2. The concern about air travel is not so much about its current levels, but about the very worrying *trend* it's on.

Emissions from the housing sector are not sky-rocketing - in fact they're decreasing slowing. Air travel is... well look below
So IMO it does make sense to ring the bell & draw attention to a sector where things are getting worse so fast.

Avoiding to make things worse should be at least as important as trying to make things better.
3. As compared to other sectors of consumer emissions, air travel is more clearly linked to *luxury* (pun intended) than *need*

Yes some immigrants and people with dispersed social networks might 'need' to fly. But a *lot* of air travel is accounted for by international holidays
If we're trying to reduce emissions in a fair & just way, perhaps we should cut/tax someone's 3rd holiday abroad in a year, before we cut/tax someone else's home heating, or journey to work?

That sort of reasoning explains much of the focus on air travel IMO.
[again, you would expect left-wing commentators to see the value of prioritizing needs over luxuries?]
Another misconception about air travel emissions is that you just need to make 'public transport' / rail better and the problem will just go away.

There's a few problems with that. First, it's a bit of a 'carrotist' argument
Second, the evidence on whether high-speed rail substitutes for air travel (for city pairs where they compete) is AFAIK a little sketchy. If it does, the effect is not that large.
But most of all, the problem is that a *lot* of emissions from air travel are from flights over distances that cannot really be substituted by rail.

For those distances, most people either fly or don't go at all.
Bastani's tweet seems to suggest that "someone's summer holiday" are something trivial from a CO2 perspective, which we should rather leave alone.

BUT long-distance trips (by all modes) account for 40-50% of GHG emissions from passenger travel…
My conclusion: after years of being ignored and glamourised, air travel and its contribution to climate change are getting more and more criticism. I think that is well warranted.

It's not a trivial topic, and it definitely shouldn't be a taboo topic.


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More from @giulio_mattioli

7 Apr
Two things can be true at the same time:

1 - vested interests try & frame climate change as a question of individual responsibility *only*

2 - we should still be interested & do something about the very large inequalities in personal carbon footprints
Ignoring 2 just because of 1 would be a very bad idea.
Read 5 tweets
27 Mar
US Transport Secretary #Buttigieg suggested a vehicle miles tax. And so the usual debate goes on between:

A: "are you mad taxing car use is *obviously* regressive"

B: " No it isn't"

So I am reupping a few threads that I wrote about this question
A few caveats. My threads refer to the European situation. The US is more car-dependent which means that more low-income households drive cars, and over longer distances (but fuel prices are lower).

Overall, this exacerbates concerns about the social impact of taxing car use.
Read 6 tweets
3 Mar
The UK is doing is very well with the vaccines, but is it going to people's heads?

This poll would suggest it is. British respondents rate the UK's performance better than Israel(!) and much better than the US, although the data does not bear that out.…
The actual data on the vaccination rate
These matrices are a *treasure trove* for laying bare national stereotypes.

So which countries do Germans think are doing *worst* with vaccines? Well, why, UAE & Italy.

*All* countries surveyed also likely to think that UAE is doing badly. Except this is the reality. 🤯😂🤦‍♂️
Read 8 tweets
28 Feb
Interesting data from an international opinion poll: 11% see car owning *primarily* as a financial constraint / something that is hard to afford… Image
The share of people who see cars primarily as a financial constraint is strikingly similar across countries at around 10% Image
In most countries there is a substantial share of car owners who sometimes give up on using their cars because of the cost of fuel. Particularly among younger adults. Image
Read 4 tweets
13 Nov 20
You want to get a sense of how difficult transport is for climate mitigation? Go no further than this report.

A THREAD with lots of graphs
Transport is by far the largest sector of final energy consumption in the EU.

20 years ago, industry & residential were close, but both have declined, while transport has increased.
While final energy consumption increased, energy *efficiency* decreased steadily.

So what happened there? Well, travel *activity* increased (with ups & downs due to the economic crisis)
Read 18 tweets
11 Nov 20
This is fun but how could they miss the dreaded *production stage*!? 😱😂
"All your 300+ references get misplaced after you approved the (correct) proofs, so the paper is online but everything is wrong with it. Hope no one sees it & spend a few days correcting references & emailing the journal manager" (TRUE STORY)
"Your special issue article erroneously gets published in a regular issue. Spend your holidays on the phone with the publisher. End up with the same paper published twice, once as "Reprint", with 2 separate DOIs"
Read 5 tweets

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