Flying is the most polluting way to travel and Swiss residents are frequent flyers. 56% of those surveyed by gfs-zürich on behalf of the Swiss Energy Foundation have flown once or more for non-work reasons in the last two years.
According to the Swiss Energy Foundation, the average non-work related distance flown per Swiss resident in 2015 was around 9,000 km.
The number of flights rose with education and income. Those with the highest education flew 2.6 times compared to 1.3 times for the least educated. Those earning over CHF 9,000 flew 2.4 times compared to 0.5 times for those earning less than CHF 4,000.
French-speakers (2.3 times over 2 years) flew more often than German-speakers (1.4 times over 2 years). Over the last two years the middle aged (40-64) took 2 flights compared to 1.4 for those 18-39 and those 65+.
While 60% agreed that air travel is a driver of climate change and 54% said they considered the environment in everyday life, few were prepared to forgo flying.
Only 23% said they had forgone a flight for ecological reasons over the past two years by taking another form of transport or going to a closer destination.
There was a big difference between French and German speakers. Only 14% of French speakers had forgone a flight compared to 26% of German speakers.
And while those over 39 flew more than 18-39 year olds, they were far more likely to forgo flying for environmental reasons: 29% compared to 11%. The well-educated (36%) were more likely to forgo flights than the least educated (20%), as were those earning over CHF 9,000 (35%) compared to those earning below CHF 4,000 (20%).
The Swiss Energy Foundation describes flying as the most climate-damaging means of transport. Worldwide, it accounts for around 5% of global warming. In Switzerland it is responsible for around 18%.
Aircraft emissions are more damaging that their terrestrial equivalents. High altitude emissions have a more potent greenhouse effect. This is quantified in a measure known as the Radiative Forcing Index (RFI). Aerosuisse, the umbrella organization of the Swiss aerospace industry, reckons the RFI is 1.35, meaning high-altitude pollution is 1.35 times worse than its on-the-ground equivalent. The German Federal Environment Agency reckons it is between 3 and 5 times as bad.
Aviation emissions, which continue to grow as more aircraft take to the skies, are not included in climate negotiations. In addition, the industry avoids fuel taxes, partly to remove an incentive for planes to fly to low or no tax countries to refuel.
Gfs-zürich questioned 1,004 people between 9 and 28 October 2017.
GFS-Zürich report (in German)