Until we stop flying. That’s the message of a George Monbiot essay recently published in the Guadian. The statistics Monbiot cites on the climte change effects are pretty overwhelming:
As far as climate change is concerned, this is an utter, unparalleled disaster. It’s not just that aviation represents the world’s fastest growing source of carbon dioxide emissions. The burning of aircraft fuel has a “radiative forcing ratio” of around 2.7(11). What this means is that the total warming effect of aircraft emissions is 2.7 times as great as the effect of the carbon dioxide alone. The water vapour they produce forms ice crystals in the upper troposphere (vapour trails and cirrus clouds) which trap the earth’s heat. According to calculations by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, if you added the two effects together (it urges some caution as they are not directly comparable), aviation’s emissions alone would exceed the government’s target for the country’s entire output of greenhouse gases in 2050 by around 134%(12). The government has an effective means of dealing with this. It excludes international aircraft emissions from the target.
It won’t engage in honest debate because there is simply no means of reconciling its plans with its claims about sustainability. In researching my book about how we might achieve a 90% cut in carbon emissions by 2030, I have been discovering, greatly to my surprise, that every other source of global warming can be reduced or replaced to that degree without a serious reduction in our freedoms. But there is no means of sustaining long-distance, high-speed travel. (My emphasis)
While I’m tempted to point out the recent development of a new biofuel for aircraft, Monbiot already has this covered: “Biofuels for aeroplanes would need more arable land than the planet possesses (source).” Beyond that, I simply can’t think of a way of doing this more sustainably — anyone with more expertise have ideas? Can you imagine telling people they can’t fly, or raising the price of flying to the point where only the most well-off can afford it? Can you imagine the outrage that would come not only from the airlines and travelers, but also businesses in big (or even not-so-big) tourist destinations? Finally, are there more sustainable combinations of rail and water travel that could fill the gap? What about using offsets (Shea?)? I’m just thinking out loud here — feel free to do the same…
Via Black Bear Speaks.
Categories: aircraft, travel, climatechange, UK, monbiot, biofuels, sustainability, tourism