Is The Fear of Flights Because of Climate Change Founded?

Posted On November 11, 2019

If you are familiar with the aviation circles, you probably have heard a conversation linking climate change to airplane safety. And if you don’t have that familiarity, well, you have now heard it here. The debate is more pronounced on the passenger end than in the aviation technical teams.

Many frequent fliers opine that global warming is making the skies more dangerous by increasing turbulence and affecting visibility. Aviation experts say all that is hogwash. But then, what is the truth?

Global Warming and Turbulence

Basically, turbulence is every flier dread. If you find a person who is afraid of flying, there is a fat chance that they had a dreadful turbulence experience. God forbid this experience came during their maiden flight.
Turbulence as a fear factor ranks higher than fear of heights and watching news about fatal crashes.

But what exactly is turbulence?

Turbulence can simply be defined as the bumpiness in the air that may (or may not, depending on severity) cause discomfort when flying. It is caused by uneven airspeeds which causes different wind behaviors. An easy way of looking at it is to think of sea waves rising and falling, with the airplanes taking the role of boats or ships.

Does Turbulence Endanger Aircraft?

Basically, no. The flight might feel bumpy and uncomfortable, but there is no real danger that turbulence poses to a flight. Occasionally, there may be some damage to parts of the craft but nothing serious. Even this would require a tremendous amount of turbulence to occur. It is for this reason that passenger flights look to avoid turbulent skies while cargo flights appear unbothered. The airlines are only aiming for passenger comfort, not safety.

But is Climate Change Increasing Turbulence?

Yes. Climate change is largely about an increase in temperatures. Also, when airplanes fly through turbulent skies, there is an increased emission of CO2 which contributes further to the degradation. If not for anything else, avoiding turbulence would contribute to reducing pollution, something that would definitely make the UN happy (Think of the UN climate goals).

If global warming is increasing turbulence, then it is definitely making the skies unsafe, right?

Wrong. Rather, not necessarily. As earlier mentioned, turbulence does not cause any remarkable danger to flights. It gets even better. In the region of the atmosphere where ordinary flights pass through, there’s only 0.1% of places you are likely to encounter strong turbulence.

That is an already very low percentage. Therefore, even if changes in climate were to increase turbulence, it would still be extremely rare to encounter instances that are severe. The chances go even lower when you consider that prediction is becoming better, so the chances of avoiding turbulence go up.

Again, aircraft building technology keeps growing all the time. This means that the modern airbuses, even when they encounter bad turbulence, are in even lesser danger.

How to Deal With the Fear For Flying

It all starts in the mind. The best point to start is to internalize the above understanding of turbulence. Take time to consciously let it sink. Tell yourself repeatedly that turbulence is not a real danger in aviation. This way, you will be able to keep calm even when the plane falls for seventy feet, knowing that it’s just part of the journey.

Second, you will need to unlearn that climate change is making flying unsafe. This will take an even greater effort given the persistent efforts to drive the agenda. Yes, the fight for climate conservation is good, but instilling flight fear to fuel the push is wrong. People are already scared of flying enough, they don’t need to be burdened with more fears.

Knowing what exactly stems your fear of flying will also go a long way in helping you find a solution. Don’t be afraid to talk about it; a lot more people than you may think are also afraid of flying, all for different reasons. You will be surprised how opening up could set you on the path to overcoming your fear. Hearing stories from people who have been through the same experiences or those who held the same fears can be therapeutic.

Above all, you have to trust science. It is not always what it looks like. The skies may look menacing, the ride may feel bumpy but in the end, what has been proven scientifically will stand. It is what it is. Science is the reason air travel is happening in the first place. Think about the idea of flying a century ago. How many people would have believed that it was possible for a man to tear through the sky from one point to another? Right, no more than two Wrights.

But hey, here we are! Planes take to the sky every day and touch down safely. Science has been right and will continue to be- even if and when the climate changes (and it has changed a lot in the last decade, by the way).

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