Flying the Carbon Neutral Skies?

| Fri Sep. 18, 2009 10:15 AM PDT

In a world of new checked baggage fees, intrusive airport security and dwindling airline services, here's some airport news to feel good about. The San Francisco airport will install Climate Passport kiosks so that passengers can calculate their trip's carbon emissions and pay to offset their portion of the damage. Funds raised will benefit a reforestation project in California's Mendocino County. David Knowles explains the benefits and risks of this news:

One-way from SF to Boston produces 1,999 pounds of CO2. The computer suggests a dollar amount for passengers to donate to Bay Area projects that specifically target carbon emissions (and there are quite a few of them here). For that ride to Boston, for instance, the touch-screen kindly suggests you donate $12.24. You can even check out Climate Passport website before your trip, and see how much carbon dioxide hypothetical itineraries might use.

Of course, the timing of this idea is both crucial and unfortunate. Crucial because we need to offset carbon emissions more than ever. Today, NOAA reported that the average ocean temperature in August hit an all time 20th Century high this year. But unfortunate because who in this economy is going to shell out even more travel money to support projects that they have to give the benefit of the doubt to?

Of course, the success of the program will depend on the number of passengers who actually pay for the offsets and whether other airports embrace this option. But let's hope that airlines don't use the new policy as an excuse to punt on other important aspects of environmental efficiency.

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