A new phenomenon known as “flight shaming” is being blamed for a slowdown in the growth of air travel that could eventually wreak havoc in the industry, according to a new report. The trend, inspired by climate activists like Greta Thunberg, is resulting in fewer people traveling by plane.
A survey of 6000 Americans and Europeans by Swiss bank UBS has revealed that one in five are flying less amid concerns about climate change, Reuters reported. And roughly 27 percent of respondents said they would weigh limiting air travel in the future for environmental reasons — a 20 percent increase from a previous survey in May.
Commercial flights produce approximately two percent of global carbon emissions and 12 percent of transport emissions, according to the Air Transport Action Group. The UBS report, which was published this week, predicts that climate change concerns could reduce the expected growth in passenger travel numbers by half, which would be devastating for aircraft manufacturers.
“With the pace of the climate change debate, we think it is fair to assume that these trends are likely to continue in developed markets,” UBS analyst Celine Fornaro said.
UBS estimates that the number of flights in the European Union will increase by just 1.5 percent per year — half the rate that had been predicted by European aircraft manufacturer Airbus. The bank added that it could reduce the number of smaller aircraft ordered from Airbus and Boeing by 110 each year, the BBC reports.
The “flight shaming” movement has been spearheaded by Sweden, where it is known as “flygskam.” The Scandinavian country is home to Thunberg, a 16-year-old activist who recently travelled to New York in a zero-emission boat to participate in climate change protests and speak at the United Nations Climate Action Summit.
“By stopping flying, you don’t only reduce your own carbon footprint but also that sends a signal to other people around you that the climate crisis is a real thing and that helps push a political movement,” she told the BBC last month.
Thunberg says that she is not trying to make people feel guilty but added, “I don’t fly because of the enormous climate impact of aviation per person.”
Following her lead, a group of European activists plan to sail to a UN climate conference in Chile in December, instead of flying, to encourage world leaders to offer alternatives to fossil-fueled air travel.
Aviation currently emits about 860 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year, which is two percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions. The International Civil Aviation Organization estimates that emissions from air travel will grow between 300 and 700 percent by 2050 compared to 2005 levels if changes aren’t made.