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  • This is me in China in 1996,

  • on a trip to see where my family came from.

  • That trip was the first time that I rode in an airplane,

  • and the first time that I got stuck in an airport.

  • We've been waiting here for 9 hours now!

  • Air travel is one of the great privileges of living in this century.

  • And the number of air passengers

  • is expected to double in the next 20 years.

  • There's just one problem.

  • Aviation runs on oil, which contributes to global climate change.

  • And there's not a good alternative yet.

  • So individual consumers were left wondering

  • about their own responsibility.

  • These blankets represent arctic sea ice.

  • Alex: How many polar bears did Cleo kill?

  • Shame arises when our values don't line up with our actions.

  • Oh, this is so embarrassing.

  • Joss: So, knowing what we know about the climate crisis,

  • is it wrong to fly?

  • ( theme music playing )

  • Okay, I want you guys to think back on the past year of your lives

  • and remember all of the flights you took,

  • both for work and for personal trips.

  • I have a marker for each of you.

  • I want you to draw all of those flights on these maps.

  • - ( Alex chuckles ) - Amazing.

  • - Let's see. - A work trip for a story.

  • - Cleo: DC to Detroit. - New York to New Orleans.

  • So, this flight right here is a trip that I took to Ireland this year,

  • and on the way back, we flew over the southern tip of Greenland.

  • And I had the window seat.

  • And when I looked out the window,

  • this is what I saw.

  • That is a melting ice sheet.

  • It's probably something I would never see

  • except for in a plane like this.

  • But the plane that I was flying in is one of the reasons

  • that that ice was melting in the first place.

  • Because air travel accounts for about 5%

  • of man-made global warming in a year.

  • - Cleo: Whoa. - Joss: And that impact will only increase

  • as more and more people in Asia to take to the skies.

  • Okay, well, I have all of your flight data.

  • - Alex: Yeah. - Cleo: Uh-oh.

  • I'm going to be running some calculations on this,

  • and I will be bothering you all very soon.

  • - Okay. - All right.

  • - Okay? All right. - All right.

  • ( music playing )

  • Everyone flies for different reasons.

  • The four of us, we took 84 flights in the past year,

  • and almost half of those were for work.

  • The best way to find out what impact that has on the climate

  • is to use an online calculator

  • that measures the carbon footprint of each flight.

  • ( music playing )

  • They ask about your connections because nonstop flights

  • typically use fuel more efficiently.

  • Something like a quarter of emissions

  • are from take off and landing alone,

  • so you don't want to do that twice

  • if you don't have to.

  • They also ask whether you flew economy,

  • business class, or first class,

  • because if you're taking up more space on the plane,

  • you're responsible for more of the fuel use.

  • The folks in first class

  • are causing about five times the emissions

  • of the economy passengers.

  • Tsk, tsk, tsk.

  • So, all of our flights led up to the equivalent

  • of 36.7 metric tons of CO2.

  • It's kinda hard to know what that means

  • because CO2 is invisible.

  • But there was a report published that shows us

  • how we can translate our CO2 emissions

  • into actual square meters of melted arctic sea ice.

  • What we find, I mean, that basically the observed sea ice loss

  • is very linearly related

  • to how much CO2 we keep adding to the atmosphere,

  • such that for about, um, every metric ton of CO2

  • we add to the atmosphere,

  • we melt another three square meters of sea ice.

  • You know, whenever I fly from London to New York City, for example,

  • that's equivalent to about a metric ton of CO2.

  • So then I would melt about three square meters every time I flew.

  • So, basically, the size of a large dinner table, I guess.

  • Where's Joss?

  • Here's Alex's.

  • Where are we going?

  • I have no idea.

  • Do you guys know where we're going?

  • - No. - I have a pretty good guess.

  • I heard a lot of talk about blankets.

  • - Yeah, yeah, yeah. - Like picnic blankets?

  • - Mm. - Is there food there, is what I'm wondering.

  • Christophe: I don't think there is gonna be food.

  • No?

  • Welcome to the park.

  • How long have you been here?

  • I spent the night here.

  • - Oh, nice. - Oh, no.

  • - Not really. - At least you have blankets.

  • Yeah.

  • You ready to have some fun?

  • Uh, y-- I think so.

  • Okay, so, this morning

  • we're gonna be using our imagination.

  • So, these blankets are arctic sea ice.

  • And of course they're just blankets

  • that we're gonna be donating to Providence House

  • here in Brooklyn when we're done.

  • - Nice. - But for now they're sea ice.

  • And arctic sea ice, of course,

  • has been melting due to man-made global warming.

  • So, we'll start over here.

  • If you have meat in your diet for a year in the U.S.,

  • you melt this much sea ice.

  • Alex: Oh, my God.

  • And that is actually the square footage.

  • - Exactly, yes. - Wow.

  • If you drive a car for a year in the U.S.,

  • Alex, you melt this much sea ice.

  • - Should I roll this? - Yeah.

  • Okay.

  • Oh, this is shameful.

  • Whoa.

  • What kind of car do you drive?

  • I drive a Nissan Silvia.

  • Oh, that's devastating.

  • You probably drive less than the average American.

  • Yeah, but it only gets, like, 16 miles to the gallon.

  • Not great.

  • And this is the ice that melts

  • from the average American's air travel in a year.

  • And that doesn't seem like a lot

  • because it's the equivalent of just one round trip

  • between New York and California.

  • But that generates the same emissions

  • as around four months of driving.

  • But, of course, the four of us,

  • we are not the average flyer.

  • Oh, no.

  • So, we're gonna go over there now.

  • - Oof. - Ours are gonna be huge.

  • - Uh-oh. - ( chuckles )

  • - I think I see my pile. - Yeah, same.

  • Okay, we're gonna start with this one.

  • You guys want to help me fold it out?

  • - Yeah. - Let's just start with half.

  • This way, and then it goes...

  • - Christophe: Oh, my God. - Alex: Ooh, wow.

  • I was gonna say it's like the car, but this is--

  • - This is yours? - Joss: This is mine.

  • - What? - Whoa.

  • Oh, no.

  • But this isn't even, like-- this is just you flying.

  • - This isn't even you as an individual with-- - In a year. Right.

  • Okay, now let's go over and check this one out.

  • - It's Alex. - Alex!

  • - Yeah, that's me. - Joss: You did pretty good.

  • Still more than the average American, though, right?

  • Still more than the average American.

  • Yeah, I'm like two Americans.

  • Still not good.

  • - Okay, big boy. - Who could this be?

  • Oh, no!

  • Oh, this is so embarrassing.

  • - Cleo: Whee! - This just keeps going.

  • Well, I feel terrible.

  • - Okay, let's do the last one. - ( Cleo groans )

  • I like how the number of times it has to be folded...

  • - Tells you a lot. Right. - ...kind of gives us an idea.

  • Cleo: Oh, my God.

  • Alex: It's like a small whale.

  • Christophe: Oh, no.

  • Cleo: It's like a big whale.

  • - Well, it's a lot of ice. - It's a lot of ice.

  • Joss: But it's not really about any individual.

  • I mean...

  • Like, you flew all over the place for work this year.

  • - It is mostly work. - Yeah.

  • - But still. - Maybe something for Vox to think about.

  • Christophe: Yeah.

  • ( music playing )

  • Oh, it's so heavy.

  • Yeah.

  • Oh, my bad. ( laughs )

  • Joss: So, altogether, we flew

  • on 84 airplanes in the past year.

  • - Alex: 84 separate airplanes? - Joss: 84 separate airplanes.

  • Do you guys know how many flights there are

  • in a year around the world?

  • - Oh, hundreds of thousands? - In a year?

  • There are 35 million flights around the world in a year.

  • Christophe: 35 million.

  • Which is almost 100,000 every single day.

  • Huh.

  • - So, let's go sit down over here. - Alex: Yeah.

  • Joss: And what's interesting about that

  • is that all those flights are being taken

  • by a minority of the world's population.

  • - Mm-hmm. - So, by some estimates,

  • only 20% of humans have ever flown on an airplane.

  • - Cleo: Whoa. - Wow.

  • And even within the U.S., only about half of Americans

  • fly in a given year.

  • It's about 12% of adults in the U.S.

  • that are taking 70% of the flights. People like us.

  • And that's where it gets into the big ethical issue with climate change,

  • is that the people who have used the most fossil fuels

  • generally have more resources

  • to deal with the impacts of climate change.

  • So we're talking about stronger storms,

  • more floods, more droughts, deadly heat waves.

  • It's really the world's poor

  • who are the most vulnerable,

  • and in most cases, we're talking about people

  • who have never seen the inside of an airplane.

  • And some people are taking this so seriously

  • that they're completely changing the way they travel.

  • Is this 16-year-old young lady

  • now the leader of the climate change movement?

  • Anchor #2: She is definitely the face.

  • Anchor: And she's given a big push

  • to the flight shaming movement.

  • That is you're called out, you're shamed if you fly.

  • So, Joss asked me to go see Greta Thunberg arrive in New York City.

  • She's been sailing across the Atlantic

  • for the last two weeks, I think.

  • Her trip is a part of a larger movement called "flygskam,"

  • which is Swedish for "flying shame."

  • And, honestly, it's kind of working.

  • In Sweden and other parts of Europe,

  • people are starting to brag on social media

  • about traveling by train instead of by plane.

  • And the data shows that in Swedish airports,

  • passenger counts are down as well.

  • Cleo: You look great.

  • That diagonal sail, that's her.

  • ( crowd chanting ) Greta! Greta! Greta!

  • And she's about to set foot on land for the first time.

  • ( crowd cheering )

  • Greta Thunberg: Well, all of this is very overwhelming,

  • and the ground is still shaking for me.

  • - ( Skype rings ) - Hey.

  • - Hey, Joss. - So, Umair.

  • You've been following the flight shame movement

  • as it's been developing this year.

  • What are some of the critiques

  • of the shaming approach?

  • Well, in order to solve climate change,

  • a massive global problem,

  • you really need to be taking big bites of the apple.

  • And the critique here is that focusing

  • on what individuals do

  • kind of deflects the responsibility

  • from the institutional actors

  • that really need to be making these changes.