UK Media Says I Am To Blame For The Climate Crisis. What The Actual…?

A piece in Britain’s The Independent argues that frequent flyer programs shouldn’t exist. It claims that programs designed to encourage loyalty to one airline over another incentivize flying. Flying is bad. And sites like View From The Wing encourage you to take advantage of these programs that are bad for carbon emissions.

Entire online communities and websites have sprung up to cater to this new breed of loyalty scheme “gameification”, such as The Points Guy, Head for Points, One Mile at a Time, View From the Wing and Inside Flyer.

Oddly the piece goes on to criticize content designed to show you how to earn points without flying, though presumably doing so will help you fly more or in a more premium cabin thereby taking up more space on a plane, failing to notice that if you’re getting the cheapest fares, or traveling on a saver award, you are likely taking up an empty seat that was going to fly anyway and therefore have the smallest carbon footprint. It’s full fare business travel, not savvy frequent flyer travel, that drives incremental flights.

Aviation represents about 4% of emissions worldwide. Commercial aviation is only about half of that (the rest is cargo). Blaming around 1% of the U.S. population with airline elite status for climate change is something, I guess.

U.S. per capita carbon emissions are lower than they have been at any point since 1949. They’re also down to the level of Canada, despite per capita GDP 35% higher in the U.S.

Per capita emissions are lower than when I started this site in 2002. Frequent flyer programs themselves have changed. It almost never makes sense to ‘mileage run’ the way that it did when I started this website, and the way that it did during the Great Recession. Loyalty programs that tie status to flying tend to do so based on ticket cost, how much you’ve flown.

In any case, increasingly status is earned through activities other than flying. At American Airlines no flying at all is required to earn top status. At Delta and United their co-brand credit cards have taken on a greater role in status. As a result, blaming frequent flyer programs – or blaming sites that help you take advantage of frequent flyer programs – is nonsensical.

Climate is a serious matter, and there are basically two opposing views on how to address it.

  • One is de-industrialization, where we stop shipping food around the world to people that are hungry and stop traveling to see and connect with others.
  • The other paradigm is where we focus technological innovation to continue improving standard of living in concert with the environment.

Modern aircraft are far more fuel efficient than older jets. And while Delta plays make believe with carbon credits and wooden utensils,

The truth is that this is our only hope, and have elite frequent flyers fly less won’t be sufficient if China’s economy continues to grow, or if India’s economy grows, or if there’s hope for better lives in Africa. Those increases in emissions will trump any reductions elsewhere. That isn’t to say we shouldn’t reduce – we should – but we need new technologies so that travel, trade, and growth can continue while we do.

(HT: Live and Let’s Fly)

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, 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. 1. This website deserves all the blame it gets as far as I’m concerned. The disrespect for the audience, manifest in excessive typos, is unreal. The pitching of credit cards. The deletion of comments. The failure to delete odious bigoted comments, or ban odious bigoted commenters. But the clockwork tendency to ban certain commenters for merely personal grievances.

    2. We all need to agree climate change is real.

    3. We need to encourage urbanization. I moved to NYC this year and have not stepped foot at the airport ever since. Why? Such an urban environment is rich in diversity and resources itself. No need to travel for new experiences.

  2. @CERTIFIED Everyone makes typos. Your comment doesn’t address all the good points Gary makes about frequent flyer programs and climate change.

  3. Climate change is evolutionary and occurred long before man appeared on the face of the earth, and it will likely continue to promulgate once humankind has destroyed itself. Certainly people have contributed to climate change with their actions. In my humble opinion the single largest cause of climate change is the increasing and soon to be out of control population growth with stimulates the need for food production, energy consumption, deforestation, land exploitations, excessive water utilization, etc. China and India will soon have over 1 billion citizens and certain other countries are on a disastrous path to explosive population growth. This will stress the earth in destructive ways. Maybe some future technology will assist in controlling the negative impact on climate (and then again maybe not).

  4. “We all need to agree climate change is real.”

    No one disagrees that “climate change” is real, the question is what causes it. And the answer is that it’s mostly natural factors, largely outside the control of mankind.

    “Climate change”, as reported by the “experts”, is mostly hogwash and is little more than a means to control society and transfer wealth to a small select group of individuals. In other words, it’s the equivalent of the CovidCon on steroids.

  5. I’m not going to try to convince the nay sayers but will talk to those who may listen. When I was born in 1950 the CO2 level in the atmosphere was about 280 ppm. Today it is 423. And it has been known for well over a century that this (and other) gases trap the earth’s heat. And while short term weather is not long term climate, the wild oscillations of the past few years are exactly (in fact they exceed) the predictions of models on human induced climate change. And you can look up how the oil companies knew what the results of their greed would be…50 years ago. They’ve spent a lot to hide and confuse people, just like the tobacco and asbestos folks did.

    On a funnier topic, and we need it, that’s pretty hilarious pointing the finger at you, Gary. I certainly do not excuse my own carbon emissions, commercial and amateur flying included, but there are bigger fish to fry (like say the massive energy use of the U.S. military). Going after you reminds me a little of the guy in the old movie, “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming!” who gets up for a nice quiet breakfast and by the end of the day is blamed for (nearly) starting World War 3.

  6. @CERTIFIED – If you never fly, and hate the content on this blog, why are you reading it? The internet has an almost unlimited amount of content. Why not find some that fits your life choices and brings you joy?

  7. “Today it is 423.”

    So what? Studies have shown that CO2 levels in the past have been 10-15 times higher than they are today. Probably caused by all that automation created by Fred and Barney.

  8. Funny how those in liberal progressive cities hand wring about climate change while buying electric vehicles that are worse for environment than non electric and turn a blind eye to emerging nations like India and Pakistan. BTW if climate change will result in higher sea levels why did Obama buy in Martha’s Vineyard. Tells me he expect it to be a nothing burger. I love the limousine liberals crying about climate change while taking private planes to conferences, holidays and taking mega yachts that do more harm in one day than the average American in a year. Rules for thee and not for me. Same as defund the police as long as I have private security. Conserve water usage but my lawn and pool need constant water

    Climate change. You’re being played

  9. GLOBAL WARMING!!!!!!…..the earth gas been getting warmer since the last ice age about 25,000 years ago. We’ll all be just fine.

  10. @James – I believe it was up over 2k ppm (about 5x today), but that’s hundreds of millions of years ago. For the past million years or so, up until around 1900, it’s been between 150-300 ppm. So, 400+ is unprecedented in human history. And this rise is almost directly proportional to the amount of fossil fuel consumed by humanity. We’re already getting almost uninhabitable temperatures in some parts of the world, including in the U.S. Another degF rise in average global temperature could easily translate to many Americans experiencing120-130F summer temperatures.

  11. “Per capita emissions are lower than when I started this site in 2002.”

    I personally credit Gary with saving the planet. Good job !

  12. For those asking, of course we’ll be fine with climate change. At some point soon, no commercial insurance will be willing to underwrite property risks in Florida, and the entire southwest will be an uninhabitable desert, but don’t worry! It’s just from “natural factors” that have absolutely nothing to do with massive use of fossil fuels. All the scientists who say otherwise are just part of a massive conspiracy to destroy America.

    But now we finally know the true culprit behind climate change: the frequent flier mafia, headed by Gary Leff.

  13. It’s only The Independent so not a credible newspaper just a left wing rant rag (like the Daily Express but with opposite politics) so don’t worry about it.

    The question should be how can we still fly and experience the world and different cultures without impacting the planet in my view.

  14. Thank you Ken. Altho we may have a hand in this with 8 billion people on earth the climate will do as it has since earth developed an atmosphere. Any scapegoat is related to climate change. We may just be along for the ride.

  15. I do agree with @Gary that technological solutions are the most viable option. It would probably be harder, if not impossible, to change human behavior.

  16. Merely more insanity from the climate change crowd. Incidentally I saw Al Gore’s book on sale for £1 in a London bookstore. Ouch!

  17. “So, 400+ is unprecedented in human history.”

    So what? If it was higher in the past, as you admit, then what proof is there that the current level is caused by man?

  18. Climate change is real, but putting the guilt and onus on individuals to fix things is a fancy bit of misdirection deflecting blame and responsibility away from those who actually have the power to make a difference – governments and corporations.

  19. @Daniel – Seems they also have a typo in their username… should be CERTIFIABLE.

    If the typo complaint wasn’t bad enough, everyone move to a big city asap and stop flying? LOLOL

  20. lol “Climate Crisis”

    Only people who think that are the idiots who glue themselves to roads and gen z who are the lowest IQ generation in over 100 years.

  21. Also The Independent is another Limey Left wing rag for people who think the guardian uses too many big words (Aka Labour voters in Council Flats… 90% of their base)

  22. The bio of the writer of the piece discloses that “In 2020 she became the first travel editor of a national UK publication to give up flying…”

  23. James N succintly explained the truth behind the media. They are funded by leftist elite who want to destroy the middle class with exorbitanlty high energy prices and control of freedom of movement. They will continue to fly on their super polluting private jets and yachts but the middle class will probably eventually need pemrits to travel anywhere . Like in the middle ages

  24. @James N
    Yeah, and you want us to believe you’re an expert on belching smokestacks and cows. Do I infer some Jew bashing in your post? Wait one. Of course you’re going to deny it!

    If you’re going to criticize a writer for typos it might be best to write that comment more carefully. I’m no grammar expert but it looks to me like the last six sentences in section 1 of your comment aren’t actual sentences.

  26. @Rog, as expected, offers his usual nonsense, devoid of intelligent thought and is little more than an ad hominem attack. Please, at least try and offer a coherent position.

  27. @Josh
    Losing your cool over Fox News? Wow, only lefties pollute the atmosphere. Good to know. Then I guess I won’t buy a seat on one of those flying yachts.

  28. @James N
    As usual you have no cred to stand on. Just puttin’ it out their in make believe land. Jimmy wants us to believe Mother Nature is responsible for everything. Oh, my god, we’re being controlled by a select group of individuals who want to transfer our wealth. Would you mind stating who this select group of individuals are? Now let’s see. Oh, you mean the Jews, right?

  29. Rog
    build more wind farms for your energy needs.
    maybe they will get some wind in germany one day

  30. Cahn’t make this stuff up!

    No one disagrees that “climate change” is real, the question is what causes it. And the answer is that it’s mostly natural factors, largely outside the control of mankind.

    In other words, it’s the equivalent of the CovidCon on steroids.

    Without a doubt Faux News-watching CovidIdiot trekking between MAGA land and La La land…

  31. “Excellent” rebuttal, DCS. Unfortunately, you’ve offered nothing of value. The fact remains that both man-made climate change and Covid are massive frauds that are being used to control society and redistribute wealth. Just because you haven’t figured it out, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

  32. Didn’t we gain our independence from the Brits a long time ago! If they want to bow to a man or woman who means absolutely nothing, good for them but don’t lecture me on how the USA is always to blame. Shut up UK!

  33. They didn’t mention the Flyertalk site? Could its aged demographics and migration toward a more moderator-heavy editorializing of the site be part of the reason it wasn’t seen as relevant despite its large membership base and being the precursor source for the mentioned miles and points blogs?

  34. This is one of the best articles you’ve put out since I started reading your stuff a few years ago. I am surprised by the heavy volume of climate deniers in your comments though.

    As for the Independent…meh, the UK loves picking on us because we unseated them as the #1 world superpower about 80 years ago, and they still resent getting spanked and sent home not once but twice. Even though that was 200-250 years ago, they’ve been known to hold grudges for a thousand years, so we way as well get used to it.

  35. CERTIFIED needs to be…….We in the US do over and above at the detriment of our citizens to be OVERGREEN!! Most other countries do nothing and we cannot do it all without bankrupting the citizens by the amount that going over the hill GREEN is costing us and it maynot work…

  36. Coal plants; why oh why do we still have them? cheap but the cost long term is not worth it. Airplanes flying are miniscule. I don’t see China, India or even good old Puerto rico turning off the their coal plants any time soon…even with the cheap oil they are buying from Russia to help support the Ukraine war effort (sans P.R.). China and India make up the majority of the world’s population, time for them to step and cut down on their runaway pollution.

  37. @Josh
    Just like your prior statement, your last makes no sense at but then I’m not surprised for a Chump Fool!

  38. Rog
    You call everyone names on the blog instead of rational comments.. I think that says something about you

  39. Let them think they are right. It makes them look stupid and besides they don’t need to participate but…I bet if you investigated, half their staff or more belong to frequent flyer programs.

  40. The only thing I will accuse Gary and the other “points/miles” bloggers of is creating more demand for less award seat inventory . . . thus making what little award space that is still available much more expensive.
    @ CERTIFIED, think it through. Will all those required to support “the entire human population can fit in NYC” be living there also?

  41. What do you expect from the Independent, it is even further left than the Guardian!

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