The leader of a union representing 50,000 flight attendants warned in a column for Vox on Thursday that climate change is increasing in-flight turbulence.
In the column, Association of Flight Attendants President Sara Nelson notes that turbulence is caused by air currents shifting, and the most dangerous form, the virtually undetectable clear air turbulence, is projected to more than double by the middle of the 21st century, reaching strengths that could “catapult unbuckled passengers and crew around the aircraft cabin.”
Turbulence costs airlines in the U.S. $200 million a year, according to Nelson, and is only part of the fallout climate change is causing in air travel.
An increase in extreme weather events means more flights will be grounded, costing flight attendants in particular, as they are paid hourly for time in the air. Extreme cold in January caused the cancellation of more than 2,000 flights, while excessive heat over the past two summers has led to flight cancellations in Phoenix and Salt Lake City, according to Nelson.
Aviation unions are taking steps to reduce contributions to climate change, Nelson writes, with the International Civil Aviation Organization adopting a resolution in 2016 to align the industry with the Paris climate accord’s goals. She also calls on the federal government to take further action, touting the Green New Deal resolution spearheaded by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezGreene: McCarthy 'doesn't have the full support to be Speaker' Omar calls out Boebert over 'anti-Muslim' remarks, denies Capitol incident took place Five reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season MORE (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyEquilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Southern Company — Pledged money not going to Indigenous causes Senate Democrats call on Biden to push for COVID-19 vaccine patent waivers at WTO The Hill's Morning Report - Ins and outs: Powell renominated at Fed, Parnell drops Senate bid MORE (D-Mass.).
However, she writes, “opponents of meaningful action” have exploited workers’ anxieties to spin solutions to climate change as harmful to their jobs.
“Climate change is happening now. We need to get serious about it. Aspiring to achieve a green economy with good union jobs that leave no one behind is exactly the solution we need to fight climate change and provide opportunity for all Americans,” she writes. “As we do this together, remember too: You should really listen when your flight attendant tells you to keep your seatbelt fastened.”
The Association of Flight Attendants may have played a role in ending the 2019 government shutdown, when Nelson called for a general strike among the union’s members. President TrumpDonald TrumpFive reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season Giving thanks for Thanksgiving itself Immigration provision in Democrats' reconciliation bill makes no sense MORE signed a bill reopening the government hours later.