NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 28, 2008

Sweden is one of the greenest nations on earth, says writer Darin Rives.  The country recently placed second among 149 nations in a prestigious environmental index developed by Yale and Columbia universities.  Yet for all their geothermally heated homes and pricey hybrid cars, Swedes have one dirty habit they refuse to give up: long-distance air travel to warmer and sunnier locales. 

Swedish travel reached an all-time high in 2007:

  • More than 1 million people boarded a plane headed for a non-European destination - nearly twice as many as in 2002.
  • Significantly, aviation now accounts for 10 percent of the country's greenhouse-gas emissions -- and is growing, one recent study showed.
  • The travel fever comes as the European Union looks for ways to curb emissions from the airline industry, the region's fastest-growing source of greenhouse gases.

For light-deprived Scandinavians, escaping for a few weeks during the winter is considered a matter of mental survival -- an entitlement fueled by rising incomes and a strong economy.  The flights Swedes and other Europeans take to developing countries currently generate half of all aviation-based greenhouse-gas emissions in such nations, according to the European Federation for Transport and Environment.

One in 10 Swedes said they planned to buy a second home abroad within the next two years, according to a survey by Nordea Bank.  With Spain's sun coast now out of economic reach for many middle-class families, they're turning their search to countries such as Thailand, Gambia and Brazil.

Source: Karin Rives, "Swedes Weigh Global Warming Versus a Better Tan," Christian Science Monitor, April 23, 2008.


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