The Stockholm Environment Institute and the Tufts Climate Initiative has a good handout on the subject, “Flying Green.” They note
… the average American is responsible for the emissions of about 20 tons of CO2 annually…. If you fly to Europe and back from the US, you’ll add about 3-4 tons to your (already large) carbon footprint. With one flight you will have caused more emissions than 20 Bangladeshi will cause in a whole year. Unfortunately they are the ones who will lose their homes and livelihood once sea level rise inundates their low lying country.
Personally, I have cut back air travel a great deal to reduce emissions, to spend time with my daughter, to spend more time blogging, and, of course, to spend less time flying, which just isn’t very pleasant anymore.
The handout has a number of good suggestions and factoids — why should flying economy be considered better for the environment than flying business class?
Also, while I’m not a big fan of carbon offsets, the handout offers some good principles for such purchases and then recommends a few offsets companies.
If you want to learn more about the controversial issue of just how much damage to the climate air travel does, you might read this. If you want to know more about offsetting air travel emissions, read this.