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An Air France aeroplane exactly where it should be: on the ground, where it does no damage (CC BY NC fsll2)

Great news, everyone! Almost completely out of the blue (if you’ll pardon the pun), Air France workers have decided to take a radical step to preserve our environment and energy resources. Apparently, 20-30% of all Air France flights will not be flying today! The pretext is a mundane one – unions fighting for better working conditions, yada, yada, yada… – but there’s no fooling us and the actual, direct, hard consequences clearly show the main effects of the strike. Given a couple of numbers (Air France operates 1500 flights per day with approximately 100 passengers per flight, loosely assuming an average medium haul flight to be 3000 km, some 40 kWh of energy used per passenger per 100 km and 15 kWh of electric energy per day per household), we can conclude that Air France pilots’ grand gesture saved approximately 50 GWh of energy by keeping their planes on the ground. How much is that? Approximately sufficient for an entire month of electricity for all households in a city like Rijeka, home to about 130.000 inhabitants!

And let’s not forget the effect on climate change! Assuming a rather high car ownership rate of 40% of all citizens, Rijeka would have about 52.000 cars. If they were driven 1000 km per month and assuming 0.2 kg of CO2 per passanger per km, their total yearly CO2 emissions would be 2-3 times higher than the CO2 not emitted due to today’s Air France’s strike. However, because aeroplanes emit CO2 and other greenhouse gases at high altitudes, their warming effect is 2-3 times stronger. In other words, Air France just offset an entire month of driving all the cars in Rijeka for a month!

And that’s not all! The above numbers are true for an average day, but today is not an average day: it’s the first day of the weekend and the Euro 2016 football tournament – one of the most popular sport manifestations in Europe – just started in France a few days ago. I would estimate that actual passenger numbers are closer to 50% higher than average, so the savings in energy and CO2 emissions could be much closer to a city like Split with 200.000 inhabitants. All in all, nice win for the planet!

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