My Climate does not interest me!

When booking travel, most often by air, people may be encouraged to make a donation to offset the carbon footprint of their journey. Regrettably, very few people actually do so. How to improve this take-up rate?

Today is the 100th anniversary of the Norwegian, Roald Amundsen, arriving at the South Pole. To commemorate this, Jens Stoltenberg, the Prime Minister of Norway, together with scientists and explorers, has gone there for a ceremony to mark the event. The Swiss TV teletext today reports that this ceremony will attempt to ring alarm bells about the effects of Global warming, particularly in the polar regions.

As was made clear in the fascinating and alarming final episode of the BBC documentary series by David Attenborough, The Frozen Planet, the effects of global warming (which hardly any serious scientist now denies is happening)  are twice as extreme in the polar regions. It is not only about the effect on polar bears which is at stake, but possibly the effect on all of us. If the ice in Greenland melts then the sea levels will rise by half a metre (already dramatic for many countries), but the ice on the Antarctica continent would represent a rise of over 50 metres!

Part of the problem is down to air travel: the exact part is arguable since the effects of emissions at high altitude are more extreme than the same ones at ground level, but these aircraft emissions are rising at an alarming rate. This subject was discussed at the recent climate and energy discussion organised by Noé21, and it was stated that travellers can calculate the carbon footprint of their journey, and make a voluntary tax-deductible contribution to the non-profit foundation Myclimate.

Regrettably, it was stated that the proportion of Geneva airport passengers taking up this option is a mere 2%. Given that many Geneva residents could probably afford to make some contribution, the questions that come to mind are whether they are told of this possibility when booking travel and what contribution amount might be appropriate.

According to my quick checks, at least some travel agents do tell their clients of this possibility (HotelPlan in Balexert centre specifically do mention this to clients). I am also led to believe that the process of booking flights on the Web includes a mention of this, though probably only once the flights have actually been booked (not having any flight to book, I cannot verify this myself).

How much might be appropriate, and what would the contributions be used for? To answer this, I went to the Myclimate web site and asked about a one-way ticket from Geneva to New York (for which a ticket can be bought for about 550 CHF). This showed that I would have to offset 1.27 tons of carbon, and I am suggested two possible deals: 38 CHF or 146 CHF. A similar check for Geneva to London (easyJet quotes about 50 CHF this December, but down to 30 CHF in January) shows 193 kg carbon, with a suggestion of 6 CHF or 22 CHF.

Is this too much, not properly explained, are we too poor to afford any contribution, do we feel that it is not us that ought to pay or do we simply not care?

I suspect that we somehow feel that the well-known individual, Someone Else (or his elder brother, Everyone Else) should pay this. Of course, the suggestion that the airline companies should pay it for all passengers, plus also VAT and fuel tax, would have the aviation lobby rushing to protest to our political masters!

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