Question: How much does it cost to fly from London to New York?
Answer: 52 trees.
You might well be. But that sort of arithmetic has been in the news this month since a big airline, EasyJet, said all its tickets would include “carbon offset” payments.
Planes burn huge amounts of oil. That adds to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which is causing the planet to heat up – it’s called “global warming”.
Airlines worry that people will cut back on trips and so more of them are offering passengers a way to pay a little bit more for their ticket in order to pay for schemes which help reduce the carbon in the air.
Many of these “carbon offset” schemes involve planting trees, because trees suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
That’s where people start working out how many trees to plant for flying to New York.
One website WoW! looked at this week offered to plant 52 trees to offset the carbon emitted on an imaginary flight across the Atlantic. Planting them would cost just 3 euros.
Does that sound like a good deal to you?
It might do. But many people worry that some of these schemes don’t really work to reduce carbon in the atmosphere –they may just let people who travel feel less guilty about carbon.
It’s good news that travellers and airlines are starting to think about the effect that our personal decisions have on the planet. And it’s good that some carbon offset schemes really do work.
But Easyjet’s announcement has also got people talking about ways to travel without producing so much CO2. How about electric planes, for instance? There are serious plans to make aircraft that might run, say, on solar power.
Or check out this group of students in Holland who are building a plane with engines running on clean hydrogen, not dirty oil.