# Could the world handle not having any air traffic?

Could the world handle not having any air traffic? I mean to say that everything gets transported by ships and boats. Is this feasible ?
I hear people say how damaging to the environment burning jet fuel is.

Well, it’s been done in the past so it is possible, but it would take one hell of an adjustment in the way people live their lives.

It might be easier to invent more efficient engines and more ways to reduce greenhouse gasses.

Please enlighten me about why there would have to be so much adjustment.
Most air travel seems to be tourists. Can’t we just all agree to use boats?

I walk to work. We need people to actually make adjustments in the way they live their lives.

If you’re thinking that eliminating jet-travel would help keep our carbon emissions down, I don’t think we’ve got the technology yet.

If you eliminated air travel, you just shift that traffic to cars domestically and ships overseas (I’m thinking as an American here).

In the US, we’re averaging 3,549 BTUs/passenger mile in cars and 3,587 BTUs/passenger mile in airliners. Basically, you’re getting the same gas mileage per person in a car and a plane. You could try getting people to ride trains between cities (2,935 BTUs/PM), but the infrastructure isn’t as good in the US as it is in Europe, and people already use inter-city trains much more in Europe than the US.

If you want everyone on ships, the RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 gets 18 passenger-miles per gallon of fuel. Compare that to a car getting 30 mpg (multiply by 1.57, the US Load Factor for cars (average passengers/car)) and you get 47.1 passenger miles per gallon.

So cars = 47.1 pm/g
Ships = 18 pm/g
Airplanes = 49 pm/g

You might as well stick with airplanes until technology surges ahead.

Cite for numbers

And I bike to work.

Most people don’t get enough leave in a year to be able to travel very far in a boat.

Thing is, a ship may take weeks to make a trip that an aeroplane can do in hours. Faced with that, many people just won’t travel the way they do now, that would have a big impact on the economies of some heavily tourism dependant countries.

Also business travellers make up a significant proportion of airline customers. They would have to change the way they work. People who send items by airmail would have an adjustment to make.

I’m not saying it’s necessarily a bad idea, but I think aircraft are entrenched into our society more than you imagine.

Having said that, during episodes such as SARS, 9/11 etc the global business community manage just fine with videoconferences and phone calls, and given some time to adjust, supply chains would shift to accommodate longer delivery times. Providing it happened over a period of a few years rather than overnight, eliminating aircraft would fall into the category of ‘pain in the butt things we have to deal with’, alongside SOX, CFC elimination, wars and all these other things that businesses have managed to cope with. The biggest impact would most likely be the elimination of the touristm, airline and other associated industries - that’s a lot of jobs.

You don’t emit carbon dioxide while biking to work?

No offense, just being silly, and trying to point out the ends to which we could go to…

Plus, I wonder how much oil was used during the production and distribution of the food in the calories one consumes on the bike trip. Assuming of course that one is in shape to begin with and does not need to lose any weight, in which case it shouldn’t count anyway.

The energy requirements stated above assume passenger travel, IIRC the numbers were much different for freight, with ships being the lowest in terms of energy per pound per mile of freight, trains were almost as good as ships, trucks consuming about 10x more energy then the first 2, and plains way above that.

If plains were banned, we would need to develop high speed rail, and if the loophole allows, ground to space to ground spacecraft. Could we do it, NO WAY! Our freedom is defended partly by air defense. If we allowed military air travel, then yes but not without pain and death.

I don’t think it would be possible to ban military aircraft on the basis of environmental concerns. So aircraft would still be around, just not available for private/commercial use. You would also have to give serious consideration to using aircraft for medical, search and rescue, and other humanitarian uses. I think the government would have a duty of care to provide air travel for a critically ill patient if the technology is available, which it is.

In Australia you’d probably still have the Royal Flying Doctor Service and other similar contractors, an Air Force, Aerorescue (search and rescue contractor,) Fire Bombers, possibly Coastwatch (with many times the amount of sea travel, the Aus government would be even more obsessed with protecting our ocean borders than they are now,) the Police Air Wing, and probably others.

But that amount of flying would be insignificant compared to current levels.

I think that banning plains would actually lower gas mileage!

I think it would be easier for us to adjust to no commercial/private air (mostly jet and turboprop) travel now than in, say, 1980, because we have more versatile and powerful communications (AKA Teh Intarweb[sup]TM[/sup]) available to more people. As mentioned, SARS was a trial run: at my work we had quite a number of quarantined individuals connecting via teleconference and our VPN.

Definitely the biggest change would be on vacation travel, the kind you need to complete in two weeks. The rich would still take their three-month tours of the sights; people would still go overseas for long-term job postings, university study, etc.

JIT manufacturing processes might not be as affected as some might think; you could still have your planned parts deliveries in the pipeline; they would merely be on trucks, trains, and ships. What would suffer would be responses to emergency situations like sudden machine breakages. You’d end up keeping more maintenance spares rather than knowing you could get parts from a distant manufacturer quickly and on demand.

This is assuming that current types of flying were curtailed by policy, not because of, say, high fuel prices. High fuel prices would make all transport more expensive, which would be a much more difficult problem to deal with. We’d essentially have to restart local manufacture and food production everywhere.

Also, don’t forget that airplanes contribute to global warming in a different way: contrails.

This is considered a much more significant contributor than their CO2 emissions. I even saw where one researcher thought that he could account for the *vast majority of global warming * by considering jet contrails alone. He had an interesting set of data based on an unexpected, opportunistic experiment - the several days when flights were shut down in and around the US after 9/11.