When Greta Thunberg Travels She Suffers For Your Sins

The CEO of Lufthansa wants to ban low airfares ‘for the environment’ (not to get rid of low cost competitors). The CEO of Wizz Air wants to ban business class because business class takes up more space on planes, so is more ‘responsible’ for carbon emissions (not to get rid of competitors that rely on premium passenger revenue when his airline doesn’t offer business class). Moral grandstanding for me, but not for thee.

Climate activist Greta Thunberg won’t fly. She’s a key part of the flight shaming movement in Europe. She takes boats when visiting the U.S. In Europe she takes the train. The 16 year old says her childhood has been stolen because the world isn’t taking climate change seriously enough. Indeed she is celebrated on multiple continents.

Ms. Thunberg wants you to know that she suffers for our sins. She tweeted a photo of herself sitting on the floor of a train, implying she’d have to sit on the floor all the way home to Madrid.

The German train operator responded “It would have been even nicer if you had also reported how friendly and competent you were looked after by our team at your seat in first class.”

Time‘s Person of The Year backtracked, reminding that overcrowded trains are good I guess because that means a lot of people aren’t flying.

According to a statement from Deutsche Bahn AG, “Thunberg had a seat in first class between Kassel and Hamburg and that other members of her team were already sitting in first class from Frankfurt onwards.” (Emphasis mine.) The religious undertones of her approach aren’t an accident, by the way.

None of which should be taken to lessen the significance of the issue at hand, even if I’d differ in approach from the young woman who has become famous for the way she lectures the world. Global warming is a problem. It’s going to affect the world in a variety of ways (and not in the same way everywhere). You don’t have to trust climate models to believe this, though the worst case scenarios are scary even if they’re unlikely.

No one has real plans that are both feasible and ambitious enough to do anything about it. We could adopt all the recommended changes in the West and – taking the threat seriously – that wouldn’t be enough to make up for emissions elsewhere in the world. So my own hope is for enough broad based economic growth in the world, so that everyone can take the issue seriously, and for technological progress so that the tradeoffs involved especially for the least well off are manageable.

Air travel, though, remains a small part of global emissions. Economic growth, made possible by travel, is a crucial part of the solution. And the airline industry is among the better ones for making progress with its emissions.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Yawn – As for me I will keeping flying as much as possible, especially now that I’m retired and can go whenever and wherever I want. Very few of my trips are “required” but I go because I want to and can afford them. Also, I’ll fly in the best cabin possible. Once in a while I even may take a private jet.

    I’m not about to sacrifice over this issue. Sure there are emissions and that definitely has an impact on the planet but I haven’t see a solution yet that doesn’t dramatically raise the cost of everyday necessities like energy and food or adversely impact the overall qualify of life. I am lucky in that I can afford if my food and energy price doubled but the vast majority of people in the world can’t. Then you have the MUCH larger issues of countries in Africa and Asia (China and India being the worst offenders) along with issues like burning the Brazilian Amazon forests which cause irreparable damage regardless of what the US, Western Europe and other “first world” countries decide to do.

    Overall – life will go on and people will adapt as they always have. No reason for me to give up any luxury or convenience I have. If others want to suffer and beat themselves up GO FOR IT. You have my support but I’m not participating.

  2. For those accusing Gary of attacking a 16 year old girl give it a rest. Its rather pathetic that people suggest you can’t call out people will they lie on the internet. Its not like she is writing something in her school yearbook. She is actively going around the world and pushing her views and people have every right to challenge her. Her age isn’t relevant, except for the fact that she is naive about the world.

  3. I have read your blog for many years as well, but to be honest , you are coming across as really cynical and petty . She’s a teenager, and has the courage to speak out about what she believes. She is using her voice to at least try to effect a postive change. Your opinion on her, on a 16 year old activist , on this blog, is a little on the weird side. But it’s also a little strange your fear of soap dispensers.

  4. DaninMCI: you’re comparing this child to Hitler? What a pathetic lack of ethics and morals you have, to say nothing of your utter ignorance and stupidity.

  5. This post seems to be about “calling out” an autistic teenager because what she says makes a lot of people uncomfortable. After all, I’m sure none of us have ever done anything that could be considered hypocritical – and it is so much “fun” to poke at people who think or act differently.

    Seriously, is it at all possible that we should take some responsibility for global climate change?

  6. I like how you’re ACTIVELY suppressing opposing comments on your page and only showing comments supporting your cause. Is this how a business professional acts?

    Good job, Gary.

  7. Very surprised that Gary, considering his education and background, appears to have accepted the global warming fraud. Rather disappointing.

  8. 3 Square Meters of Arctic Ice are melted for every metric ton of Co2 released.



    Let’s focus on FACTS rather than what makes people comfortable, namely denial & name calling.

    Why the ire for a young girl who has the courage to talk about what most “Adults” don’t have the courage to?

    Gary how about sequestering your carbon (and instructing others how to as well) instead of continuing to dump it all over us while promoting a flight heavy unsustainable lifestyle.


  9. I have read this blog for around 3 years and while I have never found Gary to be too relatable, I always thought he was a decent bloke. This article, however, is a shocking piece of propaganda looking to protect his income revenues and attack those who may impact upon them.

    While I can get behind some other ‘green gripes’ you have like refillable shampoo containers in hotels, the logic behind “the airline industry isn’t bad” / “they’re trying harder than others” / “they’re essential for growth anyways” and the majority of the article dedicated to which seat Greta sat in on a train is appalling – not only because of the sinister motivation but the lazy and poor execution.

    Genuinely disappointed.

  10. @ Kim
    Most teenagers are more than willing to give you their opinion on many subjects. And 99% of it is rubbish.
    Based on the above, when making major life decisions, I don’t find the nearest 16-year-old school dropout and ask them what to do.

  11. Climatologists aren’t calling Greta for advice.
    She doesn’t get a free pass because, well, that wouldn’t be carbon neutral.

  12. I support Gary’s comments. The kid is being manipulated and used for political purposes. She lied, probably through those manipulating, and the story was exposed as a lie. Continue the good work Gary.

  13. She wouldn’t take a plane, so she took a yacht – What a Sterling idea !!

    Obviously one needed a diesel generator to chill the Bolly…

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