One of the obvious consequences of the disastrous educations that recent generations have suffered (are suffering) is their incapacity to question the information, gather curated data, try to understand global and complex scenarios and then, try to formulate a personal conclusion.

And as Mass Media is assisting to their irremediable progressive irrelevance is mimicking in many cases all the defects of Social Media: Low-quality content, simplistic messages addressed to simplistic minds, ominous fear to contravene the mainstream opinion, superficial approaches not founded in data, politically correctness obsession…

One good example is the “Flyngshame” movement, which demonizes short-haul airline transportation considering it is the main responsible for the CO2 contamination. The aeroplane has become the ultimate scapegoat for climate change, with extreme calls to ban domestic flights altogether.

But reliable data shows that this is a stupid assertion which diverts our attention from where really is the problem: Transportation in our own vehicles.

In 2019, total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Germany across all sectors totalled 805 million metric tons of CO2 equivalents – a unit of measurement scientists use to offset carbon dioxide emissions against other greenhouse gases.

The transport sector alone, which totalled 163 million tons, accounted for 20.3% of total emissions. And domestic flights represented a mere 0.24% or 1.9 million tons. By contrast, motorized individual transport (mainly cars and motorcycles) was responsible for 159 million tons of GHG, or 19.8% of total emissions. Rail transport had the lowest impact on the different transport modes with only 776,000 tons, representing 0.10% of total emissions.

But the data tell us even more about the truth. Consider that out of all the 124 million passengers who boarded an aeroplane in Germany in 2019, only 20% embarked on a domestic journey and many of these flights were feeder flights used by people to continue their journey to an international destination. So, only the minority of flights taking off in Germany could really be substituted with alternative modes of transport like the train. And if feeder flights were prohibited, this wouldn’t necessarily mean that passengers would switch to the train – they may just fly directly to an airport hub in a nearby country, or, in many cases, use the car.

Furthermore, just 4% of the 23 million purely domestic air travellers chose a so-called ultra-short route with a distance of less than 400 km. The remaining 96% cover a longer distance by air – a distance that cannot be reached by train in a reasonable time. This is especially relevant for business travel where saved time equals money.

In conclusion, focusing our efforts to reduce the emissions of CO2 on banning short-haul flights is a total mistake because it is going to resolve a ridiculously small part of the problem. It is clear that motorized individual transport is the real issue, but it is a really complex issue that affects all of us as all of us are in part responsible. It is not possible to draw a simplistic line between the bad and the good as it has been made with airlines, which have been stigmatized as evil multinationals whose only aim is to earn money and destroy the planet.

But, you know, don´t let data spoil the new mantras.

more data