Compared with other forms of travel, the environmental impacts of aviation are very large on a per kilometre basis. Aircraft engines emit heat, noise, particulates and gases which contribute to both global warming, especially carbon dioxide, and global dimming. Global dimming is defined as the decrease in the amounts of solar radiation reaching the surface of the Earth, which has reduced the amount of warming that has occurred as a result of the massive burning of fossil fuels. This is caused by the by-product of fossil fuels that are burnt in plane engines which are tiny particles or pollutants which absorb solar energy and reflect sunlight back into space. While only small as an overall percentage of greenhouse gas emissions that are produced globally, air travel is becoming a larger contribution to climate change each year. A logical and sensible response is for people to seek alternatives to regular air travel where they can.
There can be little doubt that travel into outer space would have a huge environmental footprint. This is because the spaceship would need to break free of the earth’s gravity to get to the high point in the flight. This will require the craft to travel at over three times the speed of sound to a distance of around 360,000 feet or roughly 109,000 metres above the Earth's surface.
The craft being developed by Virgin Galactic will run on kerosene, a product distilled from petroleum and therefore a fossil fuel.
Virgin claims that carbon dioxide emissions per passenger on a Virgin Galactic spaceflight would be less than a traditional long haul flight. They claim the carbon footprint of a trip to space will be about 60 percent of a passenger's footprint on a round-trip flight between New York and London. However these claims cannot be tested at present.
Climate science makes it abundantly clear that we need to keep the vast majority of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground. Therefore, it is not possible to support the development of a space travel industry that takes tourists to space.
What about the Send a Sceptic to Space campaign?
We feel that community sentiment has turned against prominent climate sceptics and the ‘send a sceptic to space’ campaign is a great way to engage new people and encourage them to join the movement that is fighting to stop further climate change.
As stated on the website, we would only send someone into space if the application to do so was successful, the person agreed to be part of it, and the schedule to do so worked.
We hope that people see this campaign as a fun way to express their dissatisfaction about inaction on climate change and to highlight those who continue to deny the overwhelming evidence that scientists have presented.
While we may not get the sceptic into space, the money raised from the campaign will be used to fund our long running climate campaigns, working with communities to ensure a socially just and ecologically sustainable future for all.