Take train or bus instead of plane

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Flying is the most polluting way to travel. The aviation sector is a growing contributor to global warming that is being caused by a relatively small number of people. Ninety percent of the world’s population has never set foot on a plane. So, if you travel by plane, one of the most important actions you can take to address the climate emergency is to reduce your air travel.

Reducing air travel is even more important given forecasts that the sector will grow wildly unless the world wakes up to the danger. By 2050, air travel is on track to take up a quarter of the world’s remaining carbon emissions budget (i.e. the amount of pollution we need to stay under to stabilize the temperature of the planet and guarantee our future prosperity).

Taking a train or bus instead of a plane reduces your footprint, saves money, and also reduces air pollution. And, most importantly, your leadership sends a powerful message to others to reduce flying and lowers the incentive of airlines to fly more and more planes.


We know that adopting a new behavior is challenging, especially when it is something you have been accustomed to. Here are some tips to support your journey. We are all in this together!

• Depending on the distance, taking a train or bus might be faster and more relaxing than taking a plane. You avoid the hassle of airport security and the need to get to the airport extra early. Plus seats on trains and buses are generally larger and comfier.

• It is often easier to get work done on a train or bus. Connecting to the internet is generally better. If you have an important reading or report to prepare, experiment working in this less distracted "office" environment.

• Just like websites that search multiple airlines to find the best deals, the same type of websites exist for train and bus travel.

• If you take a longer trip, you might surprise yourself with the benefits of the slower travel. Try taking a window seat and giving yourself permission to enjoy the beautiful scenery on the way: the natural landscape or the cities that you will pass by. This could be a stimulating period for self-reflection.

• Of course, remember to bring your earplugs to avoid distracting noise.

Be inspired by your fellow leaders who are adopting this new behavior and are helping catalyze systemic change:

o Experts think the decline in domestic flights in Germany and Sweden is due to growing awareness of the climate crisis.

o Professor Kimberly Nicholas of Lund University in Sweden is dedicated to reducing air travel, as one of the actions that would have the greatest impact on an individual’s carbon footprint.

o Dr. Peter Kalmus, climate scientist, author, and a co-founder of the Earth Hero app, also started the NoFlyClimateSci initiative.

Level of action


Additional Resources

• CARMICHAEL, Richard. Carmichael, R. (2019) Behaviour change, public engagement and Net Zero. A report for the Committee on Climate Change. Available at https://https://theccc.org.uk/publications/ and http://https://imperial.ac.uk/icept/publications/. Behaviour change, p. 81.

• GURDUS, Lizzy. Boeing CEO: Over 80% of the world has never taken a flight. We’re leveraging that for growth. CNBC. Available at: . Access on: 4 jan. 2020.

• KALMUS, Peter. Chapter 10. Slow Travel. In: Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution. New Society Publishers, 2017. Available at: . Access on: 4 jan. 2020.

• KATHARINE, Rooney. More Germans are swapping planes for trains. World Economic Forum. Available at: . Access on 4 jan. 2020.

• NICHOLAS, Kimberly A. A Hard Look in the Climate Mirror. Scientific American Blog Network. Available at: . Access on: 15 out. 2019.

• SIMS, R; SCHAEFFER, R; CREUTZIG, F; et al. Transport. In: Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovern- mental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press, 2014, p. 599–670. Available at: . Access on: 4 jan. 2015.

• TABUCHI, Hiroko. ‘Worse Than Anyone Expected’: Air Travel Emissions Vastly Outpace Predictions. The New York Times, 2019. Available at: . Access on: 4 jan. 2020.

• WYNES, Seth; NICHOLAS, Kimberly A. The climate mitigation gap: education and government recommendations miss the most effective individual actions. Environmental Research Letters, v. 12, n. 7, p. 074024, 2017. Available at: . Access on: 4 jun. 2018.

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Photo Credit
Photo by Josh Nezon on Unsplash