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Pilots should never start flying again

Pilots who are on strike around the world sound like spoiled luxury workers who go on strike for the sake of their high pleasure. But being a pilot is not a luxury job. Flying, on the other hand, is to a large extent a luxury behaviour.

Aviation accounts for a large part of the carbon emissions and many fossil-based industries, including the operation of aircraft, must disappear during the transition and those who work with them should receive retraining for professions in sustainable operations.

The UN Climate Panel shows that a continued life based on emissions of planet-destroying gases – the business-as-usual scenario (SSP5-8.5) – may well give us a world that is four degrees warmer than pre-industrial times already at the turn of the next century. It is a world that does not carry human life.

The roar of the collapsing glacier in Kyrgyzstan that rumbles over us via millions of posts on social media reminds us of the climatological catastrophe manifested earlier this summer by birds that fell dead over melting asphalt under the extreme heat of India.

Even the extremely severe forest fires in Spain and the low water levels in Italy – where vigorously rushing rivers have turned into frying sand – show us the seriousness of the situation.

It is our common emissions that cause these changes. And aviation is a strong contributor.

With flying at the level we do today, none of us can really afford to release anything more throughout the year.

No emissions from food, consumption, passenger traffic, transport, entertainment, housing or public services can be accommodated when aviation consumes the small space we have in our carbon budget. Each carbon atom from these emissions then drives the collapse.

With the climate catastrophe now blossoming in all its deadly night-black splendour, we can no longer regard charter travel as a human right or aviation as a means of transport whatsoever.

We have entered the decisive decade for the future of humanity on earth.

Research cannot formulate a clearer alarm than that.

Politicians now have no excuses for supporting any proposal that expands, intensifies or supports fossil fuels. They should build support for, approve and implement climate measures that reduce emissions by 10 percent per year, or more. Everything below that is climate-delaying.

Ordinary people around the world are now realizing more and more that we are now a hair’s breadth away from civilizational collapse. There are currently no feasible technical solutions for fossil-free commercial long-haul flights. Electric flights are estimated to be able to cover journeys of a maximum of 2200 kilometres in the next few decades. That is, you may be able to fly London-Berlin, but not London-New York. And such shorter journeys can still be replaced by the more climate-friendly train.

The climate catastrophe is rushing towards us like a collapsing global glacier.

It is time to realize that we can not continue to fly at all even near the level at which we fly today and that flight will not be sustainable for the foreseeable future.

Many of the pilots who stay on the ground today should therefore continue to be there and – in fact – never return to their jobs.

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