Google Flights Accused of 'Airbrushing' Carbon Emissions

Photo: Reuters [via BBC]

The Facts

  • According to climate experts, Google has "airbrushed" the full environmental impact of air travel through updates made to its flight carbon calculator in July.

  • Critics say the calculator - which estimates the potential impact of different flights on the climate - effectively halved total emission figures when it began excluding "carbon dioxide equivalent" emissions involved in flying, such as water vapour, last month.

The Spin

Narrative A

Google is greenwashing the effects of the aviation industry and hundreds of millions of users are underestimating the environmental impact of their journeys as a result. Carbon footprint calculations are crucial to understanding the cost of human activity - Google needs to be held accountable for misleading consumers.

Narrative B

While Google's poor practices are certainly irresponsible, the very notion of a "carbon footprint" was the brainchild of big oil, designed to shift accountability for climate change from corporations onto individuals. Rather than concentrating on private individual actions to tackle global warming - as is encouraged by programs like carbon calculators - we must seek collective action and policy reform.

Nerd narrative

There's an 85% chance there will be at least 2˚C degrees of global warming by 2100, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

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