Air travel is much more harmful to the climate than other activities, which create CO2. For example, a holiday flight for a family of four to Australia will have the same climate impact as heating your house for a decade, or leaving your TV on standby for 234 years!
Burning fuel in jet engines at high altitude (the high altitude vapour trails that can be seen criss-crossing the sky) multiplies the global warming impact of aircraft exhaust emissions by a factor of three. The very high temperatures inside jet engines also create nitrous oxides, which have 310 times, more impact than carbon dioxide.
In 1992, aviation contributed 3% of human-induced global warming emissions, worldwide. 13% of British greenhouse gas emissions are from aviation. 50% more emissions from aviation are expected by 2020. This is based on an assumption that fuel efficiency can be improved by 50%. 235 million passengers used British airports in 2007. 1.2 tonnes of CO2 are emitted for each economy passenger return to London-New York.
Airportwatch - www.airportwatch.org.uk
Campaign for Better Transport - The Impact Centre, 12-18 Hoxton Street, London, N1 6NG. Tel: 020 76130743. www.transport2000.org.uk
Government policies on climate change and on aviation expansion are completely contra-dictory. The Campaign to Protect Rural England's figures state that if Government plans for expanding Heathrow go ahead the number of planes could rise from 473,000 to 720,000 a year, resulting in more noise and an increase in CO2 emissions. Economic recession makes these figures unlikely, but there is clearly no desire on the part of government to tackle this key area of transport emissions.
Campaign for Protection of Rural England - 128 Southwark Street,
London, SE1 0SW. Tel: 020 7981 2800. www.cpre.org.uk
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that, by 2050, aviation's contribution to greenhouse gas emissions could rise to 7% of the global total from all human activity. Even the small reductions achieved under the Kyoto Protocol by 2012 could be lost by the growth in air transport. A report from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change pointed out that the real climate impact of the planned predicted doubling in air traffic over the next 30 years will swamp all the benefits of other government targets to deal with climate change.
Aviation and the Global Atmosphere - International Panel on Climate Change - Report. www.grida.no/climate/ipcc/aviation
1. Carbon Offsetting. A price we really can't afford to pay?
Adam Smith's book, the Wealth of Nations printed in 1776 extolled the free market. In the book he suggests that an ‘invisible hand' would ensure that society turned out well if everyone simply sold what they had to sell, and bought what they wanted, without worrying too much about creating any particular kind of society.
But Smith added two conditions. (He was a moral philosopher before he was an economist). He felt that human beings were morally constrained by ‘natural sympathy'. In other words, he knew that for example, in any one village, three of four pubs might vie for trade. But no individual publican had any desire to be the only pub in town, or the only one in the land, at the expense of all the others. To Smith the free market was as cooperative as it was competitive.
Smith feared that corporate interests would be the enemies of the free market, explaining that for the ‘invisible hand' to work, the market had to be ‘ideal': an infinite number of traders and an infinite number of buyers, all with complete information and total freedom of choice.
Carbon offsetting is an example of how distorted the market is and how little economics is grounded in the value of life or natural resources.
Carbon offsetting is being promoted as a solution to air travel, using the argument that:
a) The market is failing when goods and services are not correctly priced. Until recently, our economic system has not been able to price the value of our stable climate because it has been difficult to put an economic value on a unit of green house gas emitted to the atmosphere. When units of pollution (e.g. tonnes of carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere) are translated into units of property (emission reduction units or carbon credits),
b) Carbon emissions trading can be used to create finance that can be deployed to fund energy and conservation projects that counter the CO2 calculated by market activity.
For markets to work to deliver lasting and significant CO2 emission reductions, off setting values will have to represent a kind of democratic wisdom that is not yet visible in the actions of our politicians or the market.
For example British Airways argues that there is no need to reduce the amount we fly because it can simply buy up more ‘carbon credits'. . It would be physically impossible (and environmental suicide) for the whole world to fly as much as the UK public currently does.
Yet climate change will hurt the parts of the world where people do not fly at all. There is a real question of justice here.
"This is a crisis as big as war, and you couldn't trade your ration book in wartime. You were allowed 3 ounces of butter a week or whatever and that was it. And this is what it should be like with carbon. None of this carbon trading. We should have a fixed limit and it you use it all up in October then tough, you shiver for the rest of the year"
Philip Pullman. Writer
A simple way to think about this process, and have a good laugh is to visit the this website: www.cheatneutral.com
2. Make the most of travelling
Enjoy a UK holiday, slow right down, travel by train or slow boat (a fast ferry will use four times as much fuel as a slow one). Stay at home, or in a B&B near your home. How much of your own town or city do you actually know? Take time to discover and enjoy, go for walks and appreciate the area where you live.
3. Abandon travel by air
Abandon using short-haul flight and decide not to fly whenever there is an alternative. Restrict long-haul flights to a once in a lifetime occasion.
This single decision, not to fly is amongst the most important decisions you can make.
4. Avoid buying goods that have come by air
The aviation industry expects the freighter fleet to double over the next 20 years, and as larger planes are being built, this will mean a tripling of air cargo. The amount of air cargo handled by UK airports was 2,315,438 tonnes in 2006 - a 30% rise in 10 years. East Midlands is a key UK cargo airport, with 50 flights a night and with ambitious expansion underway this is expected to double by 2016. Other UK airports with growing freight operations include Manchester, Kent, Bristol and Belfast.
Airfreight has far higher negative environmental impacts, including greenhouse gas emissions, than other modes of transport. Airfreight often uses older, more polluting and noisier planes, and much is transported at night.
The closer to home you can obtain the things you need, the less impact the food we eat has on the environment. Trade-related transportation has been estimated to account for one eighth of world oil consumption. Just think... South African apples travel 6,000 miles before you eat them and Spanish onions 770 miles! Both onions and apples can easily be grown in the United Kingdom.
5. Join and support campaigns against airport expansion and air travel.
Whether you live near an airport or not the impact of air transportation is affecting us all. Find out more about the issue of air transport and investigate other ways of travelling. The proposed growth in emissions by the aviation industry is unsustainable and totally unacceptable.
- Friends of the Earth - 26 -28 Underwood Street, London, N1 7JQ.
Tel: 020 7490 15555 www.foe.co.uk
- Greenpeace - Canonbury Villas, Islington, London, N1 2PN. Tel: 0207 8658100
- Aviation Environment Federation - Sir John Lyon House,
5 High Timber Street, London, EC4FV 3NS. Tel: 020 7248 2223. www.aef.org.uk
- RSPB - The Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire, SG19 2DL.
Tel: 01767 689551. www.rspb.org.uk
- World Wildlife Fund (UK) - Panda House, Weyside Park, Godalming, Surrey,
GU7 1XR Tel: 01483 42444 www.wwf.org.uk
- Plane Stupid - www.planestupid.com
Think global - Act local
We can work to clean up the environment locally and to call for change around the globe, but to understand our role at both a personal and social level is also very important. The more we understand, the more we can learn to appreciate our own place within the delicate web of life - and our responsibilities to that life support system.
6. Explore the world around you and learn about the lives of others.
For many of the poorest people in the world, the issues for them are literally a matter of life and death. The stakes are higher and the issues more pressing. Yet their plight and our lives are inextricably linked. You may decide to volunteer or work with an aid or development agency and become involved in working towards a better world.
Remember that travelling itself generates environmental problems and there is a need to understand the differing values of people in other countries/continents.
Tourism Concern - Stapelton House, 277-281 Holloway Road, London, N7 8HN Tel: 020 7753 3330 www.tourismconcern.org.uk
7. Promote environmental projects at school
If you are a teacher, you have the opportunity to build in all kinds of encouragement for good practice. Recycling, writing on both sides of the paper, discussing ethical consumerism, fair-trade, organic food, wildlife conservation, conflict resolution, and so on, all add to the development of global citizenship and a healthier personal lifestyle.
Dynamix - Teaching resources - Tel: 01792 466231. www.seriousfun.demon.co.uk
Anti Apathy - at the hub, 5 Torrens Street, London, Tel: 0207 8418930. www.antiapathy.org
8. Link up the school computers to the Climate Prediction Net.
It is the world's largest climate modelling experiment. Each simulation divides the globe into thousands of sectors, and estimates the future temperature, based on certain assumptions such as cloud coverage, the rate of heat movement and rainfall rates. Supported by the Nuffield Foundation, the project has put together science, maths and geography teaching materials based on the project. For some of these, you need to be running the climateprediction.net model on your school computers, for others you don't.
9. Support youth organisations making a difference
The Woodcraft Folk were established at the end of the First World War as non-militarist, secular youth organisation with an internationalist outlook. It is based on the values of peace, democracy, co-operation and sustainability and works closely with the Co-operative Movement. There are groups in towns and cities across Britain, which are always keen for new adult helpers and potential leaders.
The Woodcraft Folk - 13 Ritherdon Road, London SW17 8QE
Tel: 020 8672 6031 - www.woodcraft.org.uk
Some of the large environmental campaign groups also have an equivalent youth wing. For example, the Wildlife Trusts organise Wildlife Watch groups and the RSPB has a network of Wildlife Explorers Groups.
Wildlife Watch Clubs - (Youth wing of the Wildlife Trusts) - The Wildlife Trusts,
The Kiln, Waterside, Mather Road, Newark, Nottinghamshire, NG24 1WT. Tel: 01636 677711 - www.wildlifewatch.org.uk www.wildlifetrusts.org.uk
RSPB Wildlife Explorers - RSPB, The Lodge, Potton Road, Sandy,
Bedfordshire, SG19 2DL Tel: 01767 680551 - www.rspb.org.uk/youth
10. Make your own documentary for the www.
Get your friends involved in explaining your project, ideas etc and have fun communicating the work you are doing. Write a song, or a sketch, or film your neighbourhood. Get your school, family, work mates involved. Send a copy to your local press or put it on YouTube or other media outlets.
You Tube - www.youtube.com
Indymedia - www.indymedia.org.uk
British Trust For Conservation Volunteers - 36 St. Mary's Street,
Wallinford, Oxon, OX10 OEU. Tel: 01491 839 766. www.btcv.org
The Ramblers Association - 2nd Floor, Camelford House, 87-90 Albert Embankment, London, SE1 7TW. Tel: 020 7339 8500. www.ramblers.org.uk
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) - Panda House, Weyside Park, Godalming, Surrey, GU7 1XR. Tel: 01483 426444. www.wwf.org.uk
Practical Action - The Schumaker Centre of Technology and Development - Bourton on Dunsmore, Rugby, CV23 9ZQ Tel: 01926 634400. www.practicalaction.org
Briefing funded by the Norfolk Independent Waste Trust and Cobb Charity
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