How To Cook Statistics To Meet An Agenda

On Facebook, a friend of mine linked to this article, which claims that low-price airfares are damaging the environment because aircraft emissions are SOOOO much worse than other types, etc., etc.
Here are some of its claims:

Air travel produces 19 times the greenhouse gas emissions of trains

“produces” how? In terms of “ppm per hour”? per passenger? per passenger-hour? total?
Remember that a train by and large takes far longer to get from A to B than a train does. So while it may produce “more pollution per hour”, an airplane trip from NY to LA only takes 6.5 hours, where a similar train trip takes 62 hours. Is it worth generating only 2x the emissions to get there 10x faster? I’d like to think “probably”.

One return flight to Florida produces the equivalent CO2 of a year’s average motoring

An average motorist drives 15k miles per year on their car, give or take. A round-trip flight (which in “Brit-speak” is a “return flight”) is approximately 8k miles (4k each way). A British Airways 747, in its most “packed” variation, holds 295 passengers. So if the statistic that you get 2,360,000 flight-miles for the same emissions as driving a car-load (4 passengers) of people a total of 60,000 passenger-miles, then I’m perfectly A-OK with that.
Of course MY interpretation of the statistic provided doesn’t provide nearly the gloom and doom value of their interpretation, now does it?
Who knows which of us is right? I don’t. They didn’t cite their source for the statistics so there’s no way to go back and look to see what the statistics WERE (as opposed to how they were interpreted for easy consumption). My experience tends towards “oh, they didn’t cite their source? Then it probably says what they say it does, but not what they say it means.”

1 thought on “How To Cook Statistics To Meet An Agenda

  1. The Independent rarely provides statistics. If they did, any reasonable person would add them up and that would shoot down the “CO2=bad” agenda. I wonder if the Independent would also do a story about the CO2 generated to transport all that damn coffee (and other substances) around the world.
    Of course, you also have to buy in to their load of hooey.
    If I didn’t have any scruples, I would open a carbon trading house and live off of the 2% commission for the rest of my life. Just like a certain former vice-president is doing….

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