Travel | February 12, 2022 6:18 am

Study: People Won’t Spend More on Airfare to Reduce Emissions

Out of 63,520 bookings, only 4.46 percent included carbon dioxide compensation

Study: People Won’t Spend More on Airfare to Reduce Emissions

It’s no secret that airplanes are tremendously bad for the environment. Air travel, as it stands now, accounts for roughly 2.5 percent of global carbon dioxide (a major greenhouse gas) emissions and is trending to take up a quarter of the world’s “carbon budget” by 2050. According to the now defunct website “Shame Plane,” if you fly round-trip from L.A. to Paris so much as one time, you will personally emit more of those greenhouse gases than one person is “allowed” in a year per the Paris Agreement targets for climate-change reduction.

That’s in part why airlines have begun peddling carbon offsets in an effort to counteract at least some of that damage. Carbon offsets — which fund projects that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions — are meant to neutralize your personal pollution. But while the efficacy of carbon offsets has long been called into question — United CEO Scott Kirby once said, “carbon offsets may feel good in the short term but the math just doesn’t come close to adding up” — there’s a more pressing matter at hand: people don’t give a shit about offsetting their carbon emissions if it means spending more money, according to a new report from Skift.

Per a new study which looked at 63,520 bookings made with a European airline between August 2019 and October 2020, very few passengers were willing to pay for carbon dioxide compensation. In fact, only 4.46 percent of the bookings included the compensation.

“Quite obviously, our data allow the conclusion that adequately offsetting one’s own emissions does not seem a behavioral priority for most passengers,” the report states.

Further, the study notes that the small charges airlines are making do little to reduce the environmental impact in any meaningful way, regardless.

“Our pre-registered study shows that the median willingness-to-pay to voluntarily offset a ton of carbon dioxide from flight-related emissions is zero, with the mean willingness-to-pay being around €1 ($1.14). Aggregated voluntary willingness-to-pay thus dramatically falls short of current prices to offset carbon dioxide, for example through the European Union Emissions Trading System,” it notes.

The good news is that airlines are becoming increasingly more fuel efficient all the time. That said, the rising demand for air travel mostly negates any bearing that might have on the environment. It stands to reason that charging more for carbon offsets could be beneficial in the long run, though their popularity doesn’t seem likely to increase unless there is an eventual mandate requiring passengers to purchase them. But it’s fine. Everything is fine.