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  • Writer's pictureAlastair Bartlett

The Effect of a Single Flight.

What if we could visualise our contribution to the warming climate? This was the question I pondered as a visual artist headed to Greenland for PhD research. This 15.69m² sea ice floe that I sawed from the Arctic ice pack is how much ice cover would be lost from northwest Greenland by my fossil fuel emissions flying economy return, from Sydney, Australia to Upernavik, Greenland to film it: 5.23 tonnes of CO₂e. Borrowing a peer reviewed scientific formula* I was able to calculate this amount with a 10% margin for error, inscribing the formula in the ice surface before sawing off the result**. Less sea ice means that the Arctic Ocean's dark surface absorbs more sunlight instead of reflecting it, warming the water further and creating what's known as a feedback loop. A feedback loop in one of the planet's most vulnerable tipping points: Arctic sea ice. It's not just artists asking these questions; citizens of developed countries are increasingly aware of correlations between their lifestyles and the climate crisis: witness the phenomenon of flygskam or “flying shame”. Air travel is one of the most polluting luxuries imaginable; only 11% of the world's population flew in 2018, and the greenhouse gases are emitted directly into the most potent location, the stratosphere. Of course we cannot be sure exactly where the carbon we are responsible for ends up, nor whom it will affect. And most individual fossil fuel footprints pale beside institutional contributions to planetary warming. But as I sat on the ice I had destroyed until it started to break up, I was at last able to grasp my tangible impact; it was no longer an abstract figure. And that was life-changing.

Country:Greenland Credit:Adam Sébire / Climate Visuals

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