JetBlue to Be First Carbon Neutral Airline in U.S.
Discount airline, JetBlue, plans to be the nation's first airline to be carbon neutral when it begins in July to purchase carbon offsets for all of its flights, according to CBS News.
"Air travel connects people and cultures, and supports a global economy, yet we must act to limit this critical industry's contributions to climate change," said Robin Hayes, JetBlue's CEO in a press release. "We reduce where we can and offset where we can't. By offsetting all of our domestic flying, we're preparing our business for the lower-carbon economy that aviation – and all sectors – must plan for."
JetBlue also announced that starting in July all of its flights departing from San Francisco International Airport will run on "sustainable" fuel.
The sustainable fuel it will purchase is made by Neste. Called MY Renewable Jet Fuel, the fuel is made 100 percent from waste and residue raw materials. It's fully compatible with existing jet engine technology. The JetBlue press release says that throughout its lifecycle, the "sustainable" fuel has a carbon footprint that is up to 80 percent smaller that fossil jet fuel.
JetBlue will invest in carbon offsets, by donating money to environmental projects including forest conservation; capturing and reusing methane gas emitted from landfills; and developing solar and wind farms in areas that would otherwise rely on fossil fuels for energy, as CBS News reported.
While the company did not disclose the cost, it did say buying carbon offsets would not force the airline to raise prices.
"This is the cost of doing business," said a JetBlue spokeswoman in an email to CBS News. "We've always anticipated customer's need and expectations — from TV to leg room. From a business perspective this is similar. The difference is that in addition to answering our customers' needs, it also addresses an urgent societal issue, growing emissions."
The airline produces over 8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year. The company is working on a plan to compensate for international flights, said Sophia Mendelsohn, JetBlue's head of sustainability, as Bloomberg News reported.
The move to buy offsets now also makes financial sense as the demand for carbon offsets increases with public pressure.
"By purchasing these now, we're ostensibly locking in a hedge against rising CO2 prices," said Mendelsohn as Bloomberg News reported. Other U.S. carriers purchase offsets on a far more limited basis.
JetBlue is following in the footsteps of Europe's second-largest discount airline, EasyJet, which announced in November that it would be the first airline to offset emissions from its flights, according to Bloomberg News.
The idea of buying offsets draws criticism from environmentalists who see it as a way to throw money at a problem that really requires a change in behavior. Kevin Anderson, a climate change researcher, has written that "offsetting is worse than doing nothing" because it allows people and companies to continue emitting greenhouse gasses without feeling the need to change their behavior, as CBS News reported.
However, others praise the company for acknowledging the detrimental impact of its carbon footprint, looking to address it, and to support sustainable fuels. Mark Jaccard, a longtime climate policy researcher and author of The Citizen's Guide to Climate Success told CBS News, "We need more airlines talking like this, and that is really nice."
JetBlue is working with consultants at EcoAct and South Pole, as well as Carbonfund.org, a nonprofit organization that's funded carbon-reduction and tree-planting projects across more than 40 states and 20 countries to help direct its offsets, as Bloomberg News reported.
"We have put an incredible amount of rigor behind making sure these are real, they're legitimate, they're auditable, they're traceable," Mendelsohn said, as Bloomberg News reported. "We selected a carbon offset partner with a long-term reputation that's survived the squalls of carbon offsetting ups and downs."
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Colette Pichon Battle gave a December 2019 TEDWomen Talk on the stark realities of climate change displacement, and people took notice. The video racked up a million views in about two weeks. The attorney, founder, and executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (GCCLP) advocates for climate justice in communities of color. Confronted with evidence showing how her own South Louisiana coastal home of Bayou Liberty will be lost to flooding in coming years, the 2019 Obama Fellow dedicates herself to helping others still reeling from the impacts of Katrina face the heavy toll that climate change has taken—and will take—on their lives and homelands. Her work focuses on strengthening multiracial coalitions, advocating for federal, state, and local disaster mitigation measures, and redirecting resources toward Black communities across the Gulf South.
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"These are not just wildfires, they are climate fires," Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State, said as he stood amid the charred remains of the town of Malden west of Seattle earlier this month. "This is not an act of God," he added. "This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways."
'These Aren't Wildfires'<p>Sam Ricketts, who led climate policy and strategy for Governor Jay Inslee's 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted on September 11 that "These aren't wildfires. These are #climatefires, driven by fossil fuel pollution."</p><p>"The rate and the strength and the devastation wrought by these disasters are fueled by climate change," Ricketts told DW of fires that have burnt well over 5 million acres across California, Oregon, Washington State, and into neighboring Idaho. </p><p>In a two-day period in early September, Ricketts notes that more of Washington State burned than in almost any entire fire season until now, apart from 2015. </p><p>California, meanwhile, was a tinderbox after its hottest summer on record, with temperatures in Death Valley reaching nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. It has been reported as the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth.</p>
<div id="29ad9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8346fe7350e1371d400097cd48bf45a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306969603180879872" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Drought-parched wetlands in South America have been burning for weeks. https://t.co/pjAKdFcKPg #Pantanal https://t.co/ImN2C5vwcp</div> — NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)<a href="https://twitter.com/NASAEarth/statuses/1306969603180879872">1600440810.0</a></blockquote></div><p>As evidenced by Australia's apocalyptic Black Summer of 2019-2020, fires are burning bigger and for longer, with new records set year-on-year. Right now, Brazil's vast and highly biodiverse Pantanal wetlands are suffering from catastrophic fires.</p>
#climatefires Started in Australia<p>Governor Inslee this month invoked the phrase climate fires for arguably the first time in the U.S., according to Ricketts.</p><p>But the term was also used as fires burnt out of control in Australia in late 2019. In the face of a 2000km (more than 1,200 miles) fire front, and government officials and media who <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/trump-climate-change-denial-emissions-environment-germany-fake-heartland-seibt/a-52688933" target="_blank">played down the link to climate change</a>, Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and a friend decided that reference to bushfires was inadequate. </p><p>"We both just said, we've got to start calling them climate fires, that's what they are," the Australian Senator told DW.</p><p>Hanson-Young says scientists have been warning for decades that these would be the effects of global heating. "We've been told these kinds of extreme weather events and destruction is what climate change would look like, and it's right here on our doorstep," she said from her home state of South Australia — where by early September fire warnings had already been issued.</p><p>"Calling them climate fires was making it absolutely crystal clear. It is essential that there's no ambiguity," she said </p><p>Having deliberately invoked the term, Hanson-Young soon started to push it on social media via a #climatefires hashtag. </p>
How to Talk About the Urgency of Global Heating<p>The need to use more explicit language when talking about extreme weather events linked to climate change is part of a broader push to express the urgency of global heating. In 2019, activist Greta Thunberg tweeted that the term "climate change" did not reflect the seriousness of the situation. </p><p>"Can we all now please stop saying 'climate change' and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?" she wrote. </p><p>"Climate change has for a long time been talked about as something that is a danger in the future," said Hansen-Young. "But the consequences are already here. When people hear the word crisis, they understand that something has to happen, that action has to be taken."</p><p><span></span>Some terms are now used in public policy, with state and national governments, and indeed the EU Parliament, declaring an official climate emergency in the last year. </p>
Words That Reflect the Science<p>But while the West Coast governors all fervently link the fires to an unfolding climate crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to avoid any reference to climate. In a briefing about the fires, he responded to overtures by Wade Crowfoot, California's Natural Resources Secretary, to work with the states on the climate crisis by stating: "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch." Crowfoot replied by saying that scientists disagreed. Trump rejoined with "I don't think science knows, actually." </p><p>It was reminiscent of the anti-science approach to the coronavirus pandemic within the Trump administration, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/donald-trump-admits-playing-down-coronavirus-risks/a-54874350" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least publicly</a>. Fossil fuel companies are also benefiting from his disavowal of climate science, with the Trump administration having <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-trumps-paris-climate-accord-exit-isnt-really-a-problem/a-51124958" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pulled out of the Paris Agreement</a> and reopened fossil fuel infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline. </p><p>But the science community has responded, with Scientific American magazine endorsing Trump's Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden, the first presidential endorsement in its 175-year history. </p><p>Hanson-Young says the use of explicit language like climate fires has also been important in Australia due to the climate denialism of politicians and the press, especially in publications owned by Rupert Murdoch. As fires burnt out much of Australia's southeast coast, they were commonly blamed on arson — a tactic also recently used in the U.S.</p>
Climate Rhetoric Could Help Decide Election<p>The language of climate has begun to influence the U.S. presidential election campaign, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden labelling President Trump a "climate arsonist."</p><p>Biden is touting a robust climate plan that includes a 2050 zero emissions target and a return to the Paris Agreement. Though lacking the ambition of The New Green Deal, it has been front and center of his policy platform in recent days, at a time when five hurricanes are battering the U.S. Gulf Coast while smoke blanketing the West Coast spreads all the way to the East. </p><p>People are experiencing the climate crisis in a visceral way and almost universally relate to the language of an emergency, says Ricketts. "They know something is wrong."</p>
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