World / Science & Health

'Flight shame' website spells out emissions toll on global climate

Thomson Reuters Foundation

Getting ready to cruise in first class from New York to Narita? That will be 12.3 sq. meters of Arctic ice down the drain, thank you. Enjoy your flight.

Such statistics detailing the environmental toll wrought by jet travel are the stuff of a new website, Shameplane.com, which aims to calculate how much Arctic sea ice melt a traveler’s flight causes.

Visited by people from 120 countries since its creation in March, shameplane.com is spreading the Swedish-born concept of flygskam (flight shame) by exposing the environmental toll of just one person’s plane trip, co-creator Victor Muller said Wednesday.

But Muller said he in fact created the site for himself, to ease his angst over flygskam, and never anticipated its popularity.

So far the site has seen 30,000 visitors, from Kyrgyzstan to South Sudan and Martinique.

“It was just for me,” said Muller, 35, who lives in Sweden’s capital, Stockholm, adding, “It was never intended to shame anyone” despite its name.

The site does not focus solely on air travel.

Adopting environmentally conscious behaviors such as eschewing meat or living car-free for a year will cut the estimate for that New York-Beijing trip by about a fifth through emissions reduction, according to Shameplane.

But true to form, backlash has been part of the itinerary, with a handful of people emailing the designer to express offense at being shamed over large corporate emitters, Muller said.

Sea ice melt in the Arctic, home to the North Pole, is occurring as it warms at about double the average rate for the Earth overall.