Skip to main content

Pegasus Airline

A Blog post by Prof Andrew Russell, Department of Anthropology.

Durham to Dubai: the ribbon of war zones in between hinders low carbon emissions for some, but represents a devastating catastrophe for many more. 

On Wednesday November 15th my colleagues Jed Stevenson, Tom Bray and I gave a presentation to students studying at Teikyo University’s Durham campus.  Our talk was titled ‘Approaches to Environmental Issues at Durham University: Operational and Academic examples’. 

One of the questions we posed to the students was the following: ‘What would be the barriers to you travelling by sea and land between Japan and the UK rather than flying?’  Return flights between Newcastle (UK) and Tokyo incur an estimated 3.787 tonnes of CO2 emissions (3.79t CO2e) per passenger.  Travelling the 1950kms by sea from Tokyo to Vladivostok followed by the 8542kms train journey from Vladivostok to Newcastle (via Amsterdam) as a round trip, by contrast, would be less than a third of that.1

Answers to our question included the length of time such a journey would take, the likely expenses, and finally (after much cajoling) ‘Putin’.  Assuming one had the time and money to undertake such a journey, the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) currently advises against all travel to Russia, while the Japanese government advises its citizens against all but non-essential travel.  Yet if we are serious about reducing planetary carbon emissions to net zero in the coming years, longer distance overland journeys such as this should be part of everyone’s future planning.  However, the heady days where long-distance overland travel was at least possible, if not widely practiced, are over, and the reasons are political, not technological. 


Military conflicts and FCDO travel advice 

The Durham to Dubai overland route is similarly hamstrung by military conflicts.  Had I been able to travel purely by land to the UNFCCC COP28 in November 2023, the journey’s carbon footprint would have been 0.44 tCO2e return compared to 1.68 tCO2e flying both ways.ii  However, lying in between is a ribbon of countries – Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories - to which the FCDO currently advises against all travel.   

Neither Durham University nor my family would have supported my visiting any of these fascinating countries.  Some friends and colleagues remembered ferries that formerly plied Eastern Mediterranean routes between Turkey, Cyprus and Egypt. However, these are a long-lost dream, whether due to the advent of budget flights or the general instability in the region I don’t know.   They were of questionable efficacy in terms of reducing carbon emissions anyway (0.11kg CO2e for an average ferry passenger per km, compared to 0.14kg CO2e per passenger km for economy class air travel outside the UK and 0.035kg CO2e per passenger km for national rail travel). 


Antalya to Amman by plane 

After much research, I settled on a commercial flight between Antalya in southern Turkey and Amman in Jordan as offering the shortest air route to minimize my carbon emissions.  Although it was only about 10% (748kms) of a total journey length of 7136kms, it constituted one third (0.11 tCO2e) of the total carbon emissions for the whole journey. 

I realise that I am making these remarks from a position of immense privilege.  The ribbon of war in between was an inconvenience to my travel plans, not the devastating experience that it represents for the people (particularly women and children) stuck at ground level in the countries concerned.   


Win-win for climate and gender justice and peace

Speakers at UNFCCC side event: Win-win for climate and gender justice and peace

At COP28 today I have been listening to an event ‘Win-win for climate and gender justice and peace: acting on military spending and military emissions’ in which seven women spoke of their first-hand experiences at the receiving end of increasing militarization in the world today.  The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reckons that total military expenditure in 2022 was a record $2.24 trillion, which is tragic. Reducing military emissions requires a lot more than the development of solar powered tanks and electric support vehicles (apparently a current preoccupation in NATO) – it is about reducing the size and scale of the military altogether, worldwide. 


1. Figures based on the UK Government’s Greenhouse Gas conversion factors for ‘national rail’ (see Greenhouse gas reporting: conversion factors 2022 - GOV.UK ( Their ‘international rail’ calculations would reduce this figure substantially (from 0.03549 to 0.00446 kg CO2e per passenger km. However, the international rail figure is based on data provided by Eurostar for all their operations from London St Pancras, and do not appear to include the emissions costs of building the Eurostar lines in the first place. Hence I use the ‘national’ rail figure as the one more broadly comparable with other forms of land-based transport. If one accepts the ‘international’ figure, however, the maths comes in at just 0.516t CO2e for a round trip. That’s one seventh of the emissions associated by flying, compared to a quarter if one uses the ‘national rail’ rates. 2 Again, this depends on whether one defines more than just the Eurostar journey from London to Paris as ‘international’ travel. If the latter, the combined total comes to 0.218t CO2e, i.e. about one fifth of the carbon footprint of flying.

Visit to find out more how we are addressing one of the biggest challenges facing our planet, how we are sharing knowledge globally, and how we are educating tomorrow's world changers. Visual impressions from Prof. Russell’s journey are to be found on his Instagram channel, cop28overland.