Just Five Percent

As we previously wrote, the single biggest thing we as airport community activists could do to reduce the noise and pollution would be to encourage Remote Work.

We at SeatacNoise.Info have been puzzled for a while now why this hasn’t been a part of the discussion in either airport communities or climate change activists.

We can only speak for the airport community people we’ve spoken with personally around the country. And frankly, a lot of people who live under the flight paths are mostly interested in “having the planes go somewhere else!” more than “green house gases.” We’ve had many very knowledgeable airport activists literally yell at us saying that any proposal to reduce the number of flights is not only impossible, it’s just plain stupid. Yes. Fighting the FAA is often a fool’s errand. But that’s not what this is about. This is about making a shift that neither the FAA or any self-interested party can control.

The truth is that it would be completely painless to the overall economy to reduce about a third of take-offs and landings at any commercial airport. We know that statement to be true because we just killed 600,000 people running the social experiment called ‘COVID-19’ . (And if you think that last statement is a bit ‘dark’, it’s worth a think: Remote Work has been practical for at least fifteen years.) But despite all the ‘concern’ about climate change, it took that level of disruption to get any sector of the economy to even give it a shot.)

But OK, let’s say you’re only willing to allow for five percent. Just a teeny-weeny five percent of tasks would shift to Remote Work. Fine. That’s a little more than 25,000 flights at 2019 levels.

Do you have any freakin’ idea how much noise and pollution and green house gases 25,000 flights translates to?

It’s quite a lot, actually. 🙂

A single commercial flight creates the same C02 as almost three passenger automobiles driven for an entire year. Which means that reducing air traffic from Sea-Tac Airport by just five percent is like taking 75,000 cars off the road for an entire year. (In fact, it’s probably more than 200,000 because aviation emissions have about three times the impact on climate change as do auto emissions.)

In fact: there is simply no other mitigation that anyone can possibly put on the table for at least the next twenty years that would have the same benefits to an airport community as reducing just five percent of commercial aviation operations. Just. Five.

What’s the real goal?

We started this article, as we often do, by talking about what people really want to achieve. And that goes for your electeds. So long as the goal is actually reducing noise and pollution, no lawmaker can reasonably be against promoting Remote Work in order to reduce travel. To be against such a proposal would be to nakedly value the health of the airline industry at the expense of the community. It is exactly the same as arguing the self-interest of the coal industry in West Virginia.

In South King County, we’ve often tended to give our leaders a pass when it comes to aviation–exactly as their leaders do in West Virginia when it comes to coal. They will acknowledge their deep concerns about the health impacts. And we then applaud their efforts to continue to vigorously study the problem. But honestly there just aren’t that many electeds who are willing to speak clearly in favor of any legislation that might actually lead to a reduction in air travel–painless or not. The question we have for you dear reader is this: are you willing to ask your elected to do that?

At a minimum, you should want to know where your lawmakers really stand. And a full-throated support for a permanent shift towards Remote Work is the litmus test.

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