October 21: Google Flights and Carbon-emissions
Google has launched a feature that shows a carbon-emissions estimate for almost every flight in its search results, helping users find more sustainable travel options.
Source: Washington Post
Published: October 2021
Google Flights and Carbon-emissions
To help users find more sustainable travel options, Google launched a feature that shows a carbon-emissions estimate for almost every flight in its search results. Now, along with price and duration, travelers can use environmental footprints to compare and choose flights.
The emissions estimates are based on a combination of factors, such as the distance of a trip, the number of stops, the number and class of seats on board, and the type of aircraft.
Here’s an example of a search for flights from Seattle to Honolulu:
So how useful is this figure? Presumably larger planes have larger carbon footprints... and would show higher CO2 figures in Google's search results. Seems bad if you are a carbon conscience traveler. But if those larger planes were 100% full, the CO2 per passenger may be less than that of the planes that show lower figures in Google's search results... then again, who wants to intentionally travel packed in like sardines? So is the utility of these numbers here to find smaller empty planes to travel on? It's certainly not just a matter of larger is worse in terms of the CO2 footprint that is reported. And in the end the CO2 footprint is a matter of headwind and air traffic on the ground and other factors that can't be known at the time you're booking. Are these numbers just some feel good MIPS... meaningless indicators of performance... of today's air travel?