Saturday, March 21, 2020

The Scourge of Ghost Planes in the Wake of the Coronavirus

Early in March as the coronavirus was breaking and air travel was declining airlines began flying empty planes so that they could keep their flight slots. According to European rules if airlines fail to fly their allocated flights they risk losing their right to fly these routes. These passenger-less flights are being called ghost planes. As a consequence they wasted thousands of gallons of jet fuel and generated emissions that we can ill afford given our dwindling carbon budgets.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought air travel to a virtual standstill, and more than $100 billion in losses are expected. This takes place against the backdrop of a stock market in free fall and a collapsing fossil fuel industry. All of this is good news for our climate as it is decreasing GHG emissions, however, government subsidies and ghost flights are pushing us in the wrong direction.

A global recession is a almost certain and this may provide some much needed climate relief and perhaps an opportunity to rethink our dangerous trajectory.  However, if we try to prop-up our economies with ill conceived subsidies we are doomed to continue down our perilous path.

Both the U.S. and Canada are providing bailouts for the fossil fuel industry. However, this is the very industry that is responsible for the climate crisis.  Giving them public money is using our tax dollars to add fuel to the fire.  Ghost planes are an apt metaphor for governments throwing money at an industry that must die if we are to survive.

The End is Near for Dirty Energy

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