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You can now search for flights on Google based on carbon emissions

Google Flights will now show users what the carbon emissions of their prospective trips will be when they search for flight options.
Anton Petrus
Getty Images
Google Flights will now show users what the carbon emissions of their prospective trips will be when they search for flight options.

Now you can fly and take into account the environmental cost of your trip a little easier.

Starting Wednesday, search results on Google Flights will show users what the carbon emissions of their prospective trips will be so that a buyer can consider their environmental footprint in the same way they would price and duration, Google explained in announcing the new feature.

The company went with a color-coded system, with green signifying the most environmentally friendly flights, and with sorting options that allow users to prioritize carbon emissions when booking their trips.

Google lands on their final numbers by integrating third-party information from airlines and the European Environmental Agency. Numerous factors go into the carbon cost of a flight, including the type of plane being used, the route being taken, and even the number of seats on the aircraft, according to Google's Help Center.

Emissions from air travel are expected to triple

Google says the move is just part of its overall efforts to address climate change and make it easier for customers to choose sustainability. Last month, it joined the Travalyst Coalition, a group of brands committed to making sustainability the standard in the travel industry. Among other participants are popular travel websites like Booking.com and Tripadvisor.

"It's critical that people can find consistent and accurate carbon emissions estimates no matter where they want to research or book their trip," Google said.

Greenhouse gas emissions from commercial flights make up around 2% of the world's total carbon emissions, and are expected to triple by 2050, according to the International Council on Clean Transportation.

Some people are now shunning air travel

Amid growing concerns about climate change and ever-worsening natural disasters, some travelers have begun taking matters into their own hands. Groups like Flight Free are comprised of people who have committed not to use air travel, both as a means of reducing carbon emissions and as a way of sending a message to those in power that climate change is a priority, according to their website.

But the onus on making change isn't primarily on individual consumers; government officials are beginning to look to manufacturers to bear at least some of the burden.

Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency announced plans to make aircraft manufacturers in the U.S. match international emissions standards by 2028. The move was applauded by some as a step in the right direction, but others were less impressed; a coalition of 11 states and Washington, D.C., argued that the new rules would not actually substantially decrease emissions, according to Reuters.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Sharon Pruitt-Young