a Symbol of modernity triumphant in the post-war years, the plane does it have a future ? The global health crisis maintains today a large number of aircraft on the ground and puts in difficulty number of airlines. But, tomorrow, will it continue to fly as much as before the pandemic ? The journalist Sébastien Door dares to ask the question in his book The Last Plane. How the air traffic is destroying our environment (éditions Tana), a book that examines the pollution caused by air transport. Interview.

The Point : The health crisis that we have just passed through has knocked down almost all of the planes in the world. Should it rejoice ? Your book shows, in effect, that the air traffic ruin our environment…

Sébastien Porte, 47, is a freelance journalist, including Télérama, and It interests me. © DR Sébastien Door : We could rejoice in it, but actually my original plan was not to provide the flat global air traffic. The idea for this book came to me, in 2019, because a phenomenon had caught my attention. He was born in Sweden and is called the ” flygskam “, what we might translate by ” the shame of taking the plane “. This feeling that arises from the awareness of the pollution that causes the air traffic led to more young assets to give priority to the rail rather than domestic flights. This has allowed a decrease of 8 % in air traffic in Sweden. The movement spreads in Europe today…

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If we try to estimate the pollution induced by the aviation sector, it gives what ?

It is estimated at 1 gigatonne (Gt) is the volume of greenhouse gas emissions produced by airplanes each year, a total of 40 Gt. Or 2.5 %. This may seem small in relative value, but it contributes to global warming in another way. The production of cirrus induced by contrails of the aircraft (these clouds, which appear between 5 000 and 14 000 m above sea level) contributes to 5 % in the radiative balance global of the planet.

or the increase in traffic is phenomenal. What are the orders of magnitude in this area ?

there were 2 billion passenger in the aircraft 20 years ago. They are now 4 billion. If we continue at the same rate, $ 16 billion of people will take the plane in 2050, according to forecasts of the Organization of the international civil aviation organization (ICAO). However, even if the energy performance of motors is improved, even if some drives are electric and even if we increase the proportion of biofuels, this will lead in the best-case scenario of a doubling of the production of greenhouse gases.

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Is it because you’re worried about this prospect that you cite in the preamble of your book, a passage of Ravage by René Barjavel, published nearly 80 years ? This book evokes the skies of bottled and describes a world plagued by rising temperatures. It is a little of what that may happen to us, right ?

let us be clear. The question posed by my book is not to prevent people to travel, but encourage the mastery of the development of air traffic by regulating the consumption of travelers in the area. Barjavel, in a writer of rural and local produce, was worried about the arrival of a world where we would live suspended in the sky, always between two destinations. He preferred to individuals who remain feet planted in the clay. It is not the only one : a lot of books, science fiction books present a frightening future where the skies are populated with gear driven or not by men. But let’s be clear, today it is a tiny fringe of the population who travel by plane : only 5 % of the inhabitants of the world have taken the plane once in their life. But it is known that the enlargement of the middle classes in countries such as China or India will cause a tourism boom… If we want that everyone can enjoy it, it would be necessary that each drops.

I would have been able to work in the train, while in the plane, it is all the time bothered.

You talk about a form of rationing ?

somehow, yes. A lot of short trips can be advantageously carried out in the process. I’m going to take a concrete example and very personal. A few months ago, I had to go to Salzburg for a story. I had insisted to take the train. I live not far from a train station and I knew that starting in the morning and changing to Stuttgart, I could get to your destination in the afternoon. I was unfortunately made to take the plane. I had to get up at four in the morning, take a taxi, I landed in Vienna, changed plane, taken a taxi and I finally arrived in Salzburg that night. That’s crazy ! I would add that I would have been able to work in the train, while in the air, especially in the shorter flights, it is all the time disturbed : we must listen to the safety measures, we are proposing a case. We can do nothing.

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Why people love they as the air ?

there is a consequence of a certain romantic vision and a bit of luxurious travel. I confess that I love him a lot myself to find myself in the air.

Are you a big consumer of air transport ?

I think I am quite reasonable in this area. As I was expecting this kind of questions, I made the account. I am 47 years old and since my first flight, in 1996, I took, in average, the plane once per year. Whose twelve times only on long-haul.

The airline industry has been at once the propagator of the virus and its main victim.

Your book does not point only to the environmental consequences of the aircraft but also the cultural transformations induced by the democratisation of the air transport…

Yes. The plane is at the center of a series of sociological analyses, which show that it is a centerpiece of our new ways of life. It contributes to a process of deterritorialization of the planet, it accelerates the process of globalization. And not always for the best. Health crises are accelerated by the hypermobility of the populations. Moreover, it is to see the role played by the aeroplane in the dissemination of the Covid-19. From this point of view, there is something spicy to be considered that the airline sector has been at once the propagator of the virus and the main victim of the economic crisis that it has caused.

You make a list of recommendations at the end of your book to try to reverse the trend. Is this a book activist ?

above all, It is the job of a journalist. I just pull the alarm and I set out the possible pathways. It is not excluded that some of them have perverse effects. Even if the planes are currently on the ground, even if the traffic has dropped almost 94 % in Europe during the containment, it’s a safe bet that he is going to leave more beautiful in a few months as it has always done after the parentheses of crisis : from September 11, 2001, or the financial crash of 2008. I just list the tracks that would avoid that we fail to develop this ” surtourisme “, which we can see well that he does to anyone : neither to the countries visited or for travellers.

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What are they, these trails ?

finishing off with the ultra-low cost, put it back on the rails on the night train, promote teleworking to avoid the meetings at the other end of the country, reform the system of property ownership of the airports, taxing kerosene, and develop the contributions in climate. But also cut the subsidies that encourage this mode of travel. Once again, my goal is not to ban the plane, nor to a mode of transport expensive reserved to an elite. But, if we want to continue to fly tomorrow, we have to learn to do it some other way. Or then one day we must consider ways more radical to save the planet.

© DRLe Last Plane, how the air traffic is destroying our environment, by Sébastien Porte, editions Tana, 252 p., 18,90€.

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