The European Wilderness Society has its main office in the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Salzburger Lungau in Austria. While the Biosphere region strives for more sustainability in this mountainous region, the hazy sky always showed the futility of our activities on the ground.
The UNESCO Biosphere Lungau lies in the crossways of many airline routes from Eastern to Southern Europe and from Central Europe to the Arabic world. Sometimes up to 10 airplanes are simultaneously leaving their contrails in the sky above the Tauern mountain range. These contrails not only impacted our climate directly but also showcased how the airlines impact our climate by emitting almost 1 billion tons of CO2.
Contrails, short for “condensation trails or vapour trails composed of water in the form of ice cyrstals are line-shaped clouds generated by the aircraft jet engine exhaust and changes in air pressure, typically at aircraft cruising altitudes. Contrails also affect our climate directly by depressing the temperature difference by decreasing the maximum daytime and raising the minimum nighttime temperatures. In this respect, the contrail clouds mimic the effect of ordinary clouds.
They are also the visual signs of the exhaust fumes of the hundreds of airplanes crossing over our beautiful region. They showcase the impact of the kerosine fueled airline industry. The airline industry with its passenger and cargo traffic emitted almost 1 billion tons of CO2 last year, an increase of 32% between 2013 and 2018. This number will increase dramatically as the number of airline passengers will double from 4 billion in 2017 to more than 8,2 billion by 2037.
The Corona crisis has brought the airline industry across the globe to a halt causing the sky in the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve to be blue again without a single contrail.
That the days are numbered before our sky becomes cloudy again from the dozens of daily contrails is self evident as we witness how the airlines are returning to the sky in China, which is responsible for at least 13% of the CO2 airplane emission.
The real question is, why we business managers travel so far and so often per year instead of using vide-conferencing and why vacationers need to travel for a weekend across the globe instead of enjoying nature closer to home knowing that this behaviour is endangering our life. Corona has shown us that we can do without all of the airline traffic.