The Worst Offenders For Air Travel Emissions [Infographic]



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Climate activist groups such as Fridays for Future and the emergence of flygskram (Swedish for “flying shame”) are at the forefront of a global backlash against flying where people are being encouraged to opt for alternative modes of transport in order to lower their carbon footprints. In this era of cheap air travel, should people be ashamed by the amount of times they step onboard an airplane? A new study conducted by the International Council on Clean Transportation suggests that in most cases the answer is no and that flying isn’t a big part of the average American’s carbon footprint. The big problem is frequent fliers and determining which flights are a necessity and which flights are a luxury.

In fact, 12% of Americans who make more than six round trips by air each year are responsible for two-thirds of all U.S. air travel and therefore two-thirds of all U.S. CO2 emissions from commercial aviation. Each of those travelers emits over 3 tons of CO2 annually. If everyone in the world flew like those frequent fliers, global oil consumption would rise 150% and CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use would go up 60%. Due to the fact that more than half of the U.S. population does not typically fly, the country only ranks 11th in per capita emissions from flying.

The carbon footprint from that 12% of fliers is substantial, however, and it ensures the U.S. is the country with the highest total carbon emissions from commercial aviation. In 2018, flights departing an airport in the U.S. and its territories emitted 24% of global CO2 from airline operations. Flights departing China, Hong Kong and Macau were the second-worst offender with 13%, while the United Kingdom rounded off the top-three with 4%. In total, global civil aviation was responsible for approximately 918 million metric tons of carbon dioxide last year which is higher than the annual total emissions of Canada and the United Kingdom combined.

*Click below to enlarge (charted by

Estimated global share of commercial air travel CO2 emissions in 2018.



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I am a Statista data journalist, covering technological, societal and media topics through visual representation. In fact, I love to write about all trending topics, ill…

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