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I don't think air travel would be anywhere near the top of the list of low-hanging fruit in a balls-to-the-wall "carbon neutral or bust" program.

Electricity provision is the obvious first target. Then heating and industrial processes, both of which can be electrified. Then inland transportation, which can be electrified and moved to more efficient modes.

Even were we to mobilize a non-trivial fraction of the gross planetary product in the service of such a program, this low-hanging fruit would still suffice to keep the program busy for at least a decade.

How the world would look after ten years of total mobilization against unsustainable business practices is difficult to predict. But one thing it won't be is averse to, or inexperienced with, industrial megaprojects as a solution to scarcity problems.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Apr 19th, 2014 at 03:54:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Simply making coach cost what first class costs today, with other rates following proportionately, would start making large inroads on air travel, then double that cost and tax back the cost of subsidies...

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Apr 19th, 2014 at 10:00:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Such would, perhaps, be a reasonable course of action in areas with reasonable non-car alternatives to air transport.

However, it would also more or less end the current era of globalization for the middling masses.  This may be a good thing, in the long run, but it would also seriously mess up a lot of people's lives.

For example, I'm an expat in Japan.  Visiting home would be more or less impossible with air fare in the $7000 to $8000 range for a single trip.  Not on my salary, at any rate.

Sure, passenger liners may well revive in response, but given how awful marine diesel is, that's probably not a good idea, and anyway, most people can't afford to take a month off work for travel any more than they can afford a $6000 air ticket.

by Zwackus on Sun Apr 20th, 2014 at 02:07:06 AM EST
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Sure, passenger liners may well revive in response, but given how awful marine diesel is, that's probably not a good idea, and anyway, most people can't afford to take a month off work for travel any more than they can afford a $6000 air ticket.

A passenger-converted fast freighter makes the Tokyo-LA round trip in 26 ocean days (most non-passenger freighters would probably slow-steam, so making it more like a month each way). A dedicated liner optimized for self-loading freight can probably shave four or five days off that.

That's... doable, if not necessarily optimal. And if you hold your holidays on Midway, you can cut the transit time roughly in half.

Definitely becomes easier if you have a position that lets you telecommute for a few weeks, though.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Apr 20th, 2014 at 06:44:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Worth noting as well that once you're competing with 26 ocean days instead of 12 hours flight time, then there are flying options that are more energy efficient and become viable - because they are too slow compared to jets, but quicker than fast freighters on the ocean.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Tue Apr 22nd, 2014 at 10:18:09 AM EST
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I don't deny that the social consequences of severe price rationing of air travel will be dire. But I strongly suspect that such a development is baked into the cake within the next decade simply due to the rising cost of fuel. The government supported flag carriers will likely be the last airlines to be seriously affected and downsized.

For those who have the time and for time insensitive goods high tech sail/solar powered transport may become a factor. The average speed of the trade winds should increase.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Apr 20th, 2014 at 08:28:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Perhaps this could help with the cost of air travel, if it pans out. Or perhaps it is another source of claims of engines that run on water. The linked piece is clearly of the nature of a promotional press release. More here but also here. A fly for every ointment.  

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Apr 21st, 2014 at 11:34:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]


Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.
by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Apr 21st, 2014 at 12:04:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The fly in the ointment was hiding behind link #3.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Apr 21st, 2014 at 08:50:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Besides, the rich have their own private planes and there will be plenty of pilots and mechanics to fly and maintain them, at least in the short and medium run.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Apr 19th, 2014 at 10:19:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll beg to differ. It's actually very "low-hanging", as it could be almost removed very quickly. Yes, that would not be at equal level of satisfaction, but it's possible pretty much instantly.

What you describe are major priorities. They are not, though, low-hanging fruits. Full decarbonisation of electricity production is a massive task, and one that will actually create a lot of emissions, which would thus have to be gained back (as would emissions from peaker plants).
But that'd only be the start, as to de-carbonise other activities, electricity production would have to double.

And of course, there are other GHG than CO2.

The point is not just to "keep the program busy for at least a decade". It's to have started reducing CO2 concentrations before the end of the next one. Not emissions. Concentrations.

I don't see how that would be achieved without making sacrifices in terms of availability of air travel (OK, not total disappearance, but enough that visiting my friends once in a decade would be problematic -yes, we are talking Australia, New Zealand, Laos...) during the transition period.
The alternative is to let some catastrophes happen. I believe it is the more likely scenario. We would have needed to start a massive program earlier.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Sat Apr 19th, 2014 at 05:45:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If the franchise were limited to engineers, you'd be right. But under the universal franchise, shutting down cheap airflight is going to cost more political capital than shutting down coal power.

(I'm assuming that the only real challenge here is the politics - the technology we have pretty well in hand. Also, I'm shooting more for "survival of industrial civilization," and less for "keeping all our coastal cities," nevermind "avoiding serious catastrophes.")

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Apr 19th, 2014 at 06:55:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A significant part of the problem with air travel is not just the CO2, CO, various hydrocarbons and particulates emitted, but where they are emitted - the upper atmosphere.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Apr 19th, 2014 at 08:48:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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