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With the aviation sector finding it difficult to find technological solutions to greenhouse gas emissions, they may be one of the last sectors staying with fossil fuels. However, there is an alternative approach pioneered by Santa Claus.
Santa’s sleigh is powered by nine reindeer. Reindeer are ruminants: like cows, they digest grass and lichen and emit methane gas. Unfortunately methane is a very potent greenhouse gas. So what’s this Santa, shouldn’t you be ditching your reindeer-powered sleighs and going electric?
Fortunately, taking into consideration the amount of greenhouse gas emitted per tonne of payload per kilometre travelled, and given that the sleigh is believed to traverse the entire globe over the course of just one night, the number of kilometres travelled is very high.
While one of Santa Claus’s competitors, Amazon, is experimenting with pilotless drones for delivering parcels to front doors, they don’t really provide an effective alternative to the sleigh, having nowhere near the range nor the carrying capacity of reindeer-powered sleigh.
Not only does the sleigh visit almost all the world’s chimneys, but it increasingly visits many A-rated homes built without chimneys at all.
Even with a small payload for delivery to each destination, because good children are not greedy about what they ask for, over such a huge number of deliveries, the weight will add up.
So when the gas emitted over the 24 hours of travel is divided by the tonnage multiplied by the kilometres travelled, the unit of greenhouse gas emitted per delivery is very small.
However, Global Warming could put Santa’s Christmas delivery service at serious risk in the future.
Research shows that the extent of Arctic ice in the winter is rapidly declining each year, due to the continual rise in temperature in these regions driven by climate change.
As the depth of ice is reduced, the take-off weight for sleighs in Arctic regions may be steadily curtailed under international aviation rules. This would gradually reduce the payload of gifts that can be delivered leading to higher numbers of disappointed children.
And increasing desertification, combined with the loss of polar ice, could eventually put pressure on Santa to switch to camel-powered flight.
Maybe the best Christmas gift of all for today’s and tomorrow’s children would be effective action to tackle climate change through implementing the Paris Agreement. Let’s try to keep the North Pole the winter wonderland it is today for generations to come.
Have a very Happy Christmas!