Posted by: ericgrimsrud | December 16, 2017

Yes, there is life without flying!

It is ironic that prior to the 20th Century, people wondered whether or not humans could learn to fly and now we are asking ourselves if we can learn to live without flying. When I make the suggestion of not continuing this most carbon-intensive of all human activities, I know that suggestion is almost always going to be ignored. Essentially everyone of moderate or above means has become addicted to the convenience of flight and is not yet likely to consider giving it up. Instead, most will almost certainly want to continue flying and at increasing frequencies even though climate change scientists have told us countless times that the lives of our grandchildren will thereby be detrimentally affected.

The resistance to this suggestion is entirely expected. After all, my friends might say, what would our modern lifestyles be without fast transport by aircraft? We have places to go and people to see, right? Could we possibly return to the travel limitations of the ‘50’s? No way! is the resounding answer. I suspect that many even doubt that a modern professional and personal life is possible without transport by aircraft. How could the students of St. Olaf College, for example, get to the far off destinations of their now 50-year old, nation-leading Studies Abroad programs without flying? Sure, many of my generation travelled abroad on those slow boats to wherever during the summer time but now our kids must get there and back quickly so that the more traditional components of their studies can be attended to on campus. And, of course, those students must have an instructor with them for both the on-campus and off-campus experiences, right? How else could the college charge tuition fees on top of the travel expenses? In addition, why not offer the same type of enrichment programs for the alumni, parents, and all friends of St. Olaf College. The future of such programs is endless and will, indeed, be forcefully pursued – according to the latest Fall 2017 publication of the St. Olaf Magazine.

As a scientist, citizen and grandpa observing all of this, however, it is clear to me that far too many of us do not take sufficiently seriously the future of our planet beyond the lives of our immediate families. Instead, we happily pass the environmental costs of our most carbon-intensive habits on to our grandchildren and their families. In my opinion, all of this is a testament to (1) the limited scientific intelligence of human beings, (2) a surprising lack of concern for other generations, and (3) the ease with which our consciences are soothed by corporate propaganda. Throw a bit of “come fly with me” sloth into the mix and you have a “nobody home” situation in which the forces of immediate gratification determine everything.

It might still be helpful, nevertheless, for people to know that there are, in fact, some environmentally conscientious individuals who have managed to swear off their most carbon-intensive activities and especially that of flying. A climate scientist named Peter Kalmus is an example of such a person and his story can be read at

Note that Dr. Kalmus is a very busy person who used to fly about 50,000 miles per year. He presently has not flown since 2012, however, for the reasons I have suggested here and remains just as active and happy in his profession. Yippee! Proof that it can be done!

Another person who has not flown for many years and yet has a busier professional life than nearly everyone reading this post is Dr. Kevin Anderson of London’s Tyndall Centre, Great Britain’s leading center for climate modeling.

Dr. Anderson is one of the leading climate scientists in the world who arranges his travel plans very carefully in order to avoid all travel by air. Recently, he went from London to China and back by train in order to attend an international meeting and make several professional visits while also attending to a lot of “office work” while in transit. During his entire month-long trip, I would assume that maintaining his usual communications with everyone in his personal and professional life was also achieved via his cell phone and PC. In addition, Dr. Anderson provides regular presentations of his research via the internet so that all interested parties around the world can see and even speak with him without incurring of a greenhouse gas cost. I strongly recommend that you watch at least one of his recorded talks, such as that at If you are able and willing to give about 30 minutes of your busy day to this video, you might be as profoundly affected as I have been by the both the professional and personal example set by Dr. Anderson.

There are now a few websites that promote abstinence of air travel and provide helpful discussions of how this can be done most conveniently. Two of them are and Over 400 academics have signed a petition at the first site mentioned and several Earth scientists have joined Dr. Kalmus in telling their stories at the second.

Individuals that take up this lifestyle often note that they are respected for the examples they provide and, most importantly, their examples are then often followed by others. Perhaps the most important contribution to the climate change problem these scientific “non-flyers” make are the examples they provide for others on how to live an environmentally responsible life. In order to have the total needed effect, however, these all too rare examples of leadership must be multiplied by the thousands and that is why I am constantly encouraging the leadership of our colleges and universities to provide much more leadership than they do. Who is better positioned than they to learn all about the need for immediate, all-out action against greenhouse gas warming AND how to impart that knowledge and commitment to others. And, I hope I can assume here that the leaders of our academic institutions are mindful of the wise worlds of Albert Schweitzer: “In teaching, example is not the most important thing – it is the only thing”.


  1. I applaud Kalmus and Anderson.

    I used to travel more than 250,000 miles per year by air because it was part of my job. Since retiring 15 years ago I have been able to avoid air travel and my “Quality of Life” has definitely improved. I am sure there are plenty of people like me who are happier without air travel.

    However if you are suggesting that people who want to fly should be prevented from doing so by government edict you won’t find much support.

    • Peter; I travel by air a good bit because since I live where I do, & if I want to return to the US, I fly. If I want to go to see the Taj Mahal, as we intend to do soon, we fly. It is the best and most efficient way to get from point A to Point B.

      “Back in 1970, fuel consumption per-passenger-mile was twice that of an average car trip, but since then the airline industry has actually made progress and the auto industry has just recently started to catch up. The airline industry has cut BTUs per passenger mile 74% compared to 17% for automakers.” 

      The problem that I have with flying is how the “peaceful Muslims” have caused for so much security and multiple security checks, when changing planes in other airports one must again go through a security check, which slows the process down and leads to much discomfort to just get to the efficient aircraft and in the seat.

      Eric, as usual, doesn’t approach this from a rational angle and only wants to decry the use of fossil fuels that he sees as producing his devil in the sky, CO₂, that he thinks is destroying the planet, even if no proof of this has ever been presented, by anyone. He never mentions that in the U.S. the ability to use railroads is basically nonexistent. In spite of the railroads being given every other section of land for 40 miles on either side of the railroads right of ways to construct them & with the typical lack of foresight by the U.S. government, they were not required to continually upgrade with electrified double tracks.
      I have extensively ridden rail roads in Europe. We took the trans-Siberian to Ulaan Bataar, Mongolia and I have during my several trips to China used their efficient train system. Recall that the Chinese have the fastest train in the world & just today I see where a U.S. Amtrak couldn’t stay on the tracks and fell onto I-5 and killed many people near DuPont, Washington.

      Since Eric will not allow this to see the light of day on his closely guarded web site, I’ll send this to you as an email.

    • Peter; this is a follow up on the air travel issue and trains.
      I have been to Japan several times, the last time was when Raksa & I spent from April 18 to May 2, 2016 in the country & going by train from Tokyo to where we departed from Chitose, which is the airport that serves Sapporo, on the North Island of Hokkaido. The train system in Japan is very efficient with trains exactly on time and they are spotless, as are the train terminals. It is amazing how Japan has become such a world economic and manufacturing power house so soon after being destroyed in WWII. I also have noticed the same thing in Germany during the several times I have passed through that country by train.

      A year ago now, Dec 2016, I went to Israel. I flew by way of Tashkent. I booked the flight for Tel Aviv on, of all airlines, Uzbekistan Airways 532 that leaves Bangkok (BKK) at the very comfortable time of 10:25AM. It gets into BKK from Tashkent at 7:15AM +1 day (Arrives on Dec 6, 2016) so that is all very comfortable & the price is very good also. This summer when I came back on Emeritus, I had to wait 8 hours and then the flight was delayed so it turned out to be 12 hrs. in Dubai & that was after being on the plane for 14 hrs. out of SEA/TAC. I’ll not do that again but will go on either Korean Air/Inchon or China Air with stops in Taipei. I used public buses while in Israel other than when I used a train from Haifa to the Tel Aviv airport and it was electric with double tracks.

      When Raksa & I went to Tanzania we went on Ethiopian Air. Going was OK, coming back, not so good. Since I climbed Kilimanjaro, she came back earlier by herself & warned me about what to expect in Addis Abba. They did not call the flights & there were thousands of Muslims trying to get to Jeddah so they could try to get crushed during the Hajj at Mecca. It was hard to get it sorted out what flight to get on; but, somehow I went with all of the Chinese who were flying back to China and managed to get to BKK.

  2. The kind of experience-focussed and flight-intensive life described by Swallow and gallopingcamel, is becoming impossible, not only for reasons of climate, but also for reasons of human population numbers. There simply isn’t enough space on many of the famous places to accomodate everyone who would like to visit at least once in a lifetime. And in places where there is enough space, the experience will become intolerable. We see this already in many destinations and It is becoming worse as Chinese and others take a liking to, and can afford, travel and experiences to boost about. Not to mention the horrors of gigantic airports.

    • I see cognitiophile’s post as being a great thing for him to abide by, just stay home, cognitiophile, and that way you will not be in my way this coming March, 2018 when we go to India to see the Taj Mahal and then to Chennai to see the Kailasanatha Temple that was carved from solid stone from the top down. The megalith is carved out of one single rock & it is considered one of the most remarkable cave temples in India because of its size, architecture and sculptural treatment. Maybe I can send you some pictures of it.

      • Hi John Swallow: I actually wrote about the increasing number of people in this world who are chasing “experiences”. This is a matter of economic progress and simple math. Already today you may end up sharing the sublime architectural experience of walking around Taj Mahal with 70,000 other people on the same day. Indeed, people were recently injured because of the crowds, and there are now plans to limit the number of visitor (mainly Indians who pay a lot less than foreigners) to 40,000 per day. If you are observant, you will also see a yellow tint on the building, due to petroleum-generated, heavy air pollution. I do wish you a good experience, but I would go somewhere else!
        But I seem to detect a certain smug satisfaction in your response when you propose that I stay home (while you and others have great “experiences” made possible by flying and by denying science). So, please let me return to climate change. In order to determine what is ethical and moral behavior in relation to climate change, the central question is how the climate change situation will be resolved.
        A pessimistic, but reasonable, guess is that global progress on decreasing greenhouse gases will continue to be very slow until something dramatically happens with the climate, somewhere on Earth. Such an event may well be serious enough to cause a panic, similar to that experienced by a sudden enemy attack. Let’s assume that such an even will happen when the average temperature has increased by 1.6 C from pre-industrial values.
        Thinking about people who are not willing to adjust their way of living or to support a general carbon tax or any other collective actions, made me dream of producing an enormous fart; one that contains enough gigatons of the potent greenhouse methane to cause the “panic event” to happen much sooner.
        Once a “panic event” does happen, the most important issue will be how fast our greenhouse gas emission can be reduced. Here, the “fart method” is superior, because it is very easy to, in a manner of speech, “stop eating beans”. Besides, the residence time of methane in the atmosphere is much shorter than for CO2.
        So, this is our plan: We, who are concerned about climate change and who feel responsibility for God’s creation, will produce as much greenhouse gases as fast as we possibly can. Preferably methane, but buying and firing up a barrel of oil now and then would be OK. If anyone is wealthy, he could travel around the world to no end or buy a couple of open pit coal mines and burn up the black junk. It certainly will be cheaper under new regulations. This way, the “panic event” will happen a few years earlier, but the recovery will be faster. We would just relax and take it easy.
        with the “Fart Method”, those who, for whatever reasons, do not feel any responsibility for the climate will have to limit their flying years earlier. It is then they who, with an American expression, will be “screwed”. Not us.

        To be serious, the climate problems will not be solved by individual actions. Too many people would continue to do whatever they please

  3. “If anyone is wealthy, he could travel around the world to no end or buy a couple of open pit coal mines and burn up the black junk. It certainly will be cheaper under new regulations. This way, the “panic event” will happen a few years earlier, but the recovery will be faster.”  cognitiophile

    I assume that you have over looked someone who well represent the hypocritical far left global warming types that you seem to be a party to, as well as this billionaire, Tom Steyer. You’re better off dealing with something you know something about, farts, and let folks take their trips to broaden their knowledge of the different cultures of the planet.
    Billionaire clean-energy advocate’s dark past: coal profits July 6, 2014 at 4:39 pm
    To environmentalists across Australia, it is a baffling anachronism in an era of climate change: the construction of a 4,000-acre mine in New South Wales that will churn out carbon-laden coal for the next 30 years.

    The mine’s groundbreaking, in a state forest over the winter, inspired a 92-year-old veteran to stand in front of a bulldozer and a music teacher to chain himself to a piece of excavation equipment.

    The project had an unlikely financial backer in the United States: billionaire Tom Steyer, the most influential environmentalist in U.S. politics, who has vowed to spend $100 million this year to defeat candidates who oppose policies to combat climate change.”

    Not to worry, the ever “fair and balanced” Eric Grimsrud will never allow this reply to cognitiophile see day light.

    • Thanks for the information;I was actually not familiar with Tom Steyer, but have now learned that he resigned from Farallon, who invested in coal among other things, in 2012 and he finished divesting from fossil fuel industries in 2014, the same year that the article you quote was published. It seems to me that he followed his convictions. I don’t understand how you can claim that he is hypocritical. He would seem to be a man to be respected.

      In any case, I salute any businessman who has the acumen to divest from a loosing technology before it is too late.

      • After reading your post, I wonder if in fact you did read the report in the Seattle Times. If you did read it, then the question is, how did you miss this from the article? “An examination of those investments shows that Steyer’s divestment will do little to impede the coal-related projects his firm bankrolled, which will create tens of millions of tons of carbon pollution for years to come.”? Also these two FACTS from the article: “The New York Times examined the coal-mining companies in which Farallon invested or to which it lent money during Steyer’s stewardship. Together, those mines have increased their annual production by about 70 million tons since they received money from the hedge fund, according to corporate records, government data and interviews with industry experts.” and this one answers your poorly considered question about: “I don’t understand how you can claim that he is hypocritical.”
        “When it comes to large-scale investments in coal, Jamieson said: “You can’t undo what you’ve done in the past.” “.

        I certainly disagree with the bases for all life on earth; the trace gas that only constitutes .04% of the atmosphere and that humans expel with each breath, CO₂, should be referred to by naive people who seem to miss these fact as being a “pollutant”.

  4. “But I seem to detect a certain smug satisfaction in your response when you propose that I stay home (while you and others have great “experiences” made possible by flying and by denying science).” I find this to be a comment made by someone who has no idea what they babble about. First off, you can produce NO repeatable, empirical experiment that demonstrates that CO₂ drives the climate. There is much proof that it is the oceans that warm first and then, after up to 800 years, they give off CO₂.
    There was, and is, much more pure science involved in the fields of aviation than has ever been demonstrated by anyone who believes as you do that some devil in the sky, such as the trace gas, CO₂, that is the bases of all life on earth, is what drives the earth’s climate. Rational, thinking and logical folks know that the climate is governed by the sun, now as it has always been.

    I find it consistent with people who express the comments that you issue that you do not have enough conviction regarding what you claim to stand for that you will not present your REAL name. Why not, is the question?

  5. I can see that you are convinced that established climate science is both corrupt and totally wrong, with the exception of the data on temperature and CO2 levels during and after ice-ages, i.e. the data that you refer to. It is AMAZING that you believe in just those data (and interpretations) that, at least superficially, supports YOUR beliefs, are correct? And those data that do not, are wrong?
    And, if it is indeed correct that climate scientist regularly falsify their data, WHY did they NOT do that for the ice-cores?

  6. John Swallow, I have now signed Tom Steyer’s petition to impeach a president, who determinedly has moved US from a sound foundation of science and free inquiry to one of dogmatic and fossilized beliefs, the most damaging of which is the belief that climate change is either not caused by human activities, not real, or not a problem.

    i owe you thanks. Please have a good time on your travels in a few months.

    • It certainly comes as no surprise that you would state the action that you and other members of this cult called “anthropogenic global warming alarmism”, I call it a cult because like any religious cult it has no substantiation in any scientifically proven evidence that the trace gas, CO₂, drives the earth’s climate.
      Please inform me of how much good all of Barack Hussein Obama & his having the EPA issue 2,827 new final regulations, equaling 24,915 pages in the Federal Register, totaling approximately 24,915,000 words. The new EPA regulations issued by the Obama Administration contain 19 times as many pages as the Bible and 38 times as many words & obviously had no effect on keeping these Hurricanes away from the homeland.
      “Saturday, June 24 marked the completion of a record 140 straight months since the last major hurricane made landfall in the continental United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(NOAA). The last major hurricane to hit the continental U.S. was Hurricane Wilma, which struck Florida on Oct. 24, 2005. According to NOAA, four major hurricanes hit the continental United States that year. They included Wilma, Rita, Katrina, and Dennis.
      But since Wilma, no Category 3 or above hurricane has made landfall in the continental United States, making June 24, 2017 the end of a record 140 months without a major hurricane strike.
      Prior to this 140-month stretch without a major hurricane strike, the longest major hurricane drought was the 96 months between September 1860 and August 1869.”
      I guess now you want to blame Trump for the horrific winter in the northern hemisphere this winter.

  7. I will inject here a correction to some of the scientific nonsense spewed out in some of John’s previous comments on this post. John does not seem to realize that trace components can have huge effects on life on our planet’s surface. In addition to CO2’s effect of keeping temperatures at those of the last 8,000 years (prior to the beginning of the Industrial Age), we also have the benefits of trace level ozone, O3, in the stratosphere which serves to block out most of the sun’s UV radiation, And we also have trace levels of hydroxy radial (OH), which serves to initiate the breakdown of hydrocarbons (of both natural and man-make origin). To say that CO2 has no effect because its concentration is so low, is absolutely silly. The concentrations of O3 and OH are far lower and, like CO2, they have massive effects on our atmosphere and the conditions that exist on the surfaces of our planet..

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