Second inspiring nearly carbon-neutral UCSB conference on “The World in 2050”

by Parke Wilde

We are loving the second inspiring nearly carbon-neutral UCSB conference on “The World in 2050: Creating/Imagining Just Climate Futures.

Joe Nevins and I had prepared videos and participated in discussions for the first breakout session of UCSB’s first conference in this series, last spring, which addressed aviation issues.

In the new conference, which runs from now until Nov 14, a highlight of the first few videos I watched is a keynote talk by Margaret Klein Salamon of the Climate Mobilization (see video below). Her words connect closely with our motivation for this #flyingless initiative to reduce flying in academic communities. She says that people still “live their lives as though everything was normal…. The academy has failed to protect us…. None of our systems are working out as they should…. Each of us is responsible…. What can I do? How can I use my time on earth?”

Another keynote talk is by Bill McKibben. I look forward to watching more of these presentations in the next several weeks.

Beyond the content, the mechanics of these conferences remind us that — while it will be some minor annoyance to sharply reduce our flying — the life of the scholar will survive just fine even if, as we hope, our university communities wake up to the moral requirement of the current climate circumstance.

If this issue interests you, please don’t forget to join our organizing webinar, tomorrow, Oct 27, 2pm (Eastern US), with keynote by Ruth Wood of the Tyndall Centre.

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Flyingless Meeting/Webinar Thurs Oct 27

One year after beginning this exciting initiative (see flyingless.org for summary and link to FAQ), we have more than 400 academic supporters!

Please join us for a meeting/webinar to discuss reduced flying in academia, as a stepping stone toward dramatic culture change more broadly: Thursday Oct 27 2pm Eastern US (7pm London).

This is a great time for a conversation and reflection on activities and goals for the coming year.
Agenda for the 1-hour meeting:
1. Keynote by Ruth Wood of Tyndall Centre. We are so excited about this.
2. Update from Chris Watson, editor of the wonderful book Beyond Flying.
3. A 30 minute organizing/brainstorming/prioritizing discussion for the coming year, which I will chair.
Here is the WebEx information:
Flyingless meeting (with Ruth Wood keynote)Thursday, October 27, 20162:00 pm  |  Eastern Daylight Time (New York, GMT-04:00)  |  1 hr
Meeting password: JtMMP924
Meeting number (access code): 738 023 244
Join from a video system or applicationDial 738023244@tufts.webex.com
Join by phone
Link to Actual Webinar (Most Important):
When it’s time, join the meeting.

Principles for honest reporting on the new aviation agreement

The UN’s International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Assembly met in early October to agree on measures to curb emissions from international aviation, a sector that had been left out of the Paris Agreement a year earlier.

From the perspective of our campaign to change the culture of flying in academia, I have to see the agreement as inadequate. The agreement is voluntary, relies too much on offsets in place of actual emission reductions, and gives too little attention to restraining aviation demand. The case against the agreement is summarized in the video below from FERN, an environmental organization, and in the vigorous Guardian column this week from George Monbiot.

Some environmental organizations are more optimistic about the agreement (see World Wildlife Fund Oct 10).

While readers may share one view or the other, I feel we should all agree on some principles of honest reporting about this agreement. Nobody should say that the ICAO agreement agrees to “limit aviation emissions to 2020 levels.” That is the misleading but commonly heard shorthand for what the agreement says. The agreement actually relies mostly on carbon offsets from sectors other than aviation, such as planting trees or capturing carbon. This has several implications for honest reporting:

  1. Even if the agreement worked as written, which is doubtful, the aviation sector should get credit for only a small part of the climate improvement that could result (for example, it is fair to give the aviation sector credit for the comparatively small anticipated future improvements due to increased fuel efficiency). Most of the credit goes to the sectors that actually provided the offsets and captured the carbon.
  2. Some major environmental NGOs seek to occupy a middle ground, supporting offsets but only if they are “good offsets” — meaning that care has been taken to avoid problems such as “double-counting” (for example, avoiding counting the same tree plantings in both the aviation agreement and national targets). But honest reporting requires admitting that, even if all available “good offsets” were assigned to aviation — an astonishing proposition in itself — there still would not be quite enough good offsets to meet the requirements of the agreement.
  3. Even the slightly more careful shorthand phrase that the agreement limits “net” emissions to 2020 levels is not sufficiently accurate, unless the context makes clear that the “net” emissions reduction is mostly from offsets. Pretending that lay readers will know what one means by the word “net”, without explaining about the offsets, is little better than crossing one’s fingers while telling a fib.

With honest reporting, even the environmental NGOs that are somewhat inclined to favor the agreement should be endlessly emphasizing that it is merely a first step. Any language describing this agreement as a major solution to aviation emissions serves to undermine public understanding of the need for a major culture change toward reduced demand for aviation.