The contribution of aviation to climate change is, with a global share of just 2 per cent of emissions of CO2 (see Chapter 2, this volume), often regarded as negligible. This perspective ignores, however, the current and expected growth in air traffic, as well as its sociocultural drivers. Aviation is a rapidly growing sector, with annual passenger growth forecasts of 4.9 per cent in the coming 20 years (Airbus, 2008). In a carbon-constrained world with the ambition to reduce absolute levels of greenhouse gas emissions and limited options to technically achieve these (see Chapter 13, this volume), the growth in air traveller numbers thus indicates an emerging conflict (see also Chapter 4, this volume). Moreover, it becomes increasingly clear that aviation is an activity in which comparably few people participate. With regard to international aviation, it can be estimated that only about 2-3 per cent of the world’s population fly in between any two countries over one consecutive year (Peeters et al, 2006), indicating that participation in air travel is highly unequally distributed on a global scale. The vast majority of air travellers currently originate from industrialized countries, even though there are some recent trends, particularly in China and India, showing rapid growth in air travel (see UNWTO, 2007). There is also evidence that air travel is unevenly distributed within nations, particularly those with already high levels of individual mobility. In industrialized countries there is evidence of a minority of highly mobile individuals, who account for a large share of the overall kilometres travelled, especially by air. These travellers are ‘hypermobile’ in terms of participation in frequent trips, often over great distances. The following chapter sets out to
describe hypermobile travellers and their mobility patterns from both statistical and sociological perspectives. It also presents a case study of the distribution of mobility in France, and discusses the importance of hypermobile lifestyles for emissions of greenhouse gases and climate change more generally.