Perhaps there has been a least one positive to have come out of the recent volcanic ash cloud situation. There is little doubting that the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland has caused travel havoc and brought misery and worry to many thousands of people across the world.
With the huge ash plume containing minuscule elements of silica (glass) being a potential hazard to the engine of any plane travelling through it, concerns massively escalated as the dangerous cloud spread south easterly across Europe and the UK, enveloping the flight routes that lay underneath.
With the debating continuing regarding the possibly of the overcautious decision to ground all flights departing the UK, one thing that many onlookers haven’t considered is the affect on our environment this freak natural occurrence has had.
But which is more environmentally damaging when considering CO2 pollution; a volcano spewing forth gases, ash and magma or the multitude of planes that produce high levels of CO2 as they make their way across our busy skies?
The European aviation industry currently accounts for a massive 344,104 tons of CO2 produced daily*.  To give you an idea of just how much this is; the average UK household produces around 6 tons of CO2 per year* so it would take 57,351 homes a year to produce this much CO2.
The Volcano is estimated to be releasing 15,000 tons of CO2 per day which is an infinitesimal 4.4% of the amount created by daily air travel.
So when we take into account the 60% of flights that have been grounded during the crisis we’re looking at around a 206,465 ton saving; perhaps the earth is breathing a sigh of relief.
It’s a tricky dilemma, international flights make the world a much smaller place but at the expense of the environment. Where possible and practical we should look to reduce our carbon footprint by using car hire and rail/ferry options for overland options For us backpackers, the overland option is always the more adventurous although it might take up a lot of time if you live in Liverpool and New Zealand is your destination!
*figures taken from research collated for and CO2 stats gathered by David Mccandless and Ben Bartels.