Brian Nattras isn't the only commentator on island sustainability already sparking worries about Hawaii's umbilical dependency on air travel. (Brian was, though, to my knowledge, the first to sound the alarm here on Kaua`i...at a Po`ipu presentation last October.)
(BTW, here's an excellent commentary on the kick-off that suggests "if Hawaii becomes a leader in the field of local and regional environmental response, it has the potential to be an economic dynamo in the years to come." Of course, 36 years ago, futurists from Alvin Toffler to Arthur C. Clarke attended a similar session, yet subsequent legislatures ignored the project's recommendations, and the real world Hawai`i of today best matches the near-disaster world feared in 1970.)
Now Alex Steffen (the veteran environmental journalist-cum-blogger at WorldChanging) offers a thoughtful overview on why air travel presents one of the stickiest problems we face. He also offers a hot new idea for how to overcome this challenge.
Recent scientific findings make it clear that air travel (1) may effectively undo many of the gains so far made in cutting CO2, (2) has a climate impact 2-4 times greater than CO2 emissions alone would indicate, and (3) is already at the technical limits of efficiency in jets.
Yet, Alex is fairly certain that folks won't stop flying.
His solution? Launch an "X-Prize for Eco-Friendly Air Travel." Says Alex, "What we need is a prize, a big prize, a prestigious prize, given to the first team that can, say, cut by three-quarters airplane emissions (got to start somewhere) in a commercially practical way."
Hawai`i visitors may not be reverting to boats anytime soon, yet don't hold your breath on a tech fix here...X-Prize or no.