02. 05. 2007

Flights of fancy?

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Comments (12)

If Jeremy Clarkson is my number 1 unsustainable bete-noir, then Michael O’Leary (Ryan Air) runs in pretty close. He is just so full of it – unsustainability, that is.

So imagine my sense of near panic as I find myself feeling vaguely supportive of some of the things he has been saying lately. Not the ignorant, belligerent denial about climate change, nor the astonishing assumption that everybody has a god-given right to fly anywhere in the world at the lowest possible price regardless of the impact on anyone else. But he has got a point about another aspect of the debate: today’s new strain of deeply unattractive eco-Puritanism about flying, where even so much as thinking about getting on a plane is castigated as a heinous crime against human kind, against all future generations, and against amphibians the world over heading towards extinction.

I hate to admit it, but I think it may just be that we are beginning to get this a little out of proportion. If the received line from now on is a 100% “no-flying” as the proper way to behave in a carbon-constrained world, missing out completely on “less flying” or avoiding flying wherever possible, then won’t we be just pissing off an awful lot of people who are just beginning to get to grips with this new insight into their own carbon footprints?

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21. 05. 2007
liz Mutch

I agree. It is really easy for the media to work Middle England up into an anti sustainability frenzy just on the issue of flights - and stamp on lots of good initiatives that are slowly changing the public's perception and behaviour on envronmental issues. Admitting that anything has to change in our lives - 'just for the environment' - touches too many raw ' nanny state' nerves.

If we learn to think responsibly about our whole footprint from buying stuff to holidays, reducing flights makes sense, but not from a hysteric finger wagging fringe as the general public see us!

22. 05. 2007
Leslie watson

Indeed! Everyone should have the choice to fly so long as they don't go over their fair and safe annual carbon budget - 'Fair Share, Fair Choice' says Sustainability South West.

22. 05. 2007

Flying uses oil that might, or might not, be used for something more useful. But it will be used somewhere whether one flies or not. We will use all the oil we can get and no constraints are going to beat the post-Peak Oil depletion curve. For an analysis of the relationship between climate change and peak oil see Chris Vernon's article at http://europe.theoildrum.com/node/2559

09. 06. 2007
Sir Montgomery Cecil

Bravo JP.

So what if aviation growth is set to wipe out all other greenhouse gas emissions reductions that might be achieved. That's a price we're willing to pay. Sod it. Let's fly.

Miliband is doing a fantastic job for aviation. Earlier this week I heard him at a TUC climate conference saying aviation growth isn't going to be a problem if eveyone else hits their greenhouse gas reduction targets. Poetic.

Backing this up, later this week Miliband said the government aren't going to listen to the environmental movement on aviation. I don't know why they don't make him the aviation minister too. He can join our board any time.

And now you, top brass of the eco brigade, saying your own troops have 'got it a little out of proportion' ... you must be going to the same dinners as Miliband. Is Martin Broughton, president of the CBI at these dinners too? Afterall, he's chairman of BA and was formerly chairman of British American Tobacco plc.

It's good to know we have these kinds of alliances and skills in our corner, especially with the likes of the IPPR saying that aviation advertising and tickets should carry health warnings, like the tobacco industry.

Now all we have to do is get Tony Juniper at FoE and that guy Sauven at Greenpeace onside. No doubt you have this in hand.

As for Plane Stupid, I hear they'll be locked-up and out of the picture soon enough. Young upstarts.

Enoughs is enough with these eco-nutters.

It's good to know that with Blair gone, the aviation industry is still in safe hands. We've got Brown. We don't need green.

Drop me a line for an upgrade anytime and say tally-ho to Branson from me too.


Sir Montgomery Cecil

11. 06. 2007
Leo Murray


This is deeply, deeply unhelpful Jonathon. We are only just (this month) starting to see any evidence of the beginnings of a shift in actual consumer behaviour re: aviation, and so far have got NOTHING - absolutely nothing - by way of policy measures from the UK government to address the massive growth in aviation they are planning.

Even Plane Stupid - 'the UK's most extreme environmentalists' (the CPS, Dec 2006) don't call for an immediate end to all flights; that's just how we are characterised by right wing reactionary press. We're demanding an end to pointless short-haul flights, and asking people to think very carefully before boarding a plane full stop.

More importantly, we're demanding that the planned programme of airport expansion is scrapped; if it goes ahead then the resultant growth will mean aviation emissions dwarf those from every other sector within 30 years, and cancel out all the work done to reduce emissions from other sources.

Plane Stupid's campaigning is based entirely on sound science, not hysterical conjecture. It's frankly bonkers for you, at this crucially sensitive time, to choose to give ammunition like your posting above to the likes of Ryanair and the rest of the extremely powerful and aggressive aviation lobby in the UK. I'm really dissappointed.

11. 06. 2007

I've not seen or heard anyone saying 'stop flying', full stop.

It seems that those amongst us who fly more than their fair share, react hardest to the reality of their carbon-obesity.

The bottom-line is that one of the most significant things a person can do to reduce their carbon footprint is cut down on flying.

The average UK citizen emits 11 tonnes of CO2 a year. A return flight to Sydney emits the equivalent of over 5.5 tonnes. It's like leaving your kettle to boil continuously for over 270 days.

Jonathon - Please list your flights in the last 12 months.

13. 06. 2007
Chris Taylor

When someone wrongly suggests that anti-airport expansion campaigners want to ban all air travel, one usually has good reason to be suspicious of their motives. Are you are secret member of SPURT? Now we're all getting curious about your flying habits.

13. 06. 2007

I would just like to second Caroline's request.

"Jonathon - Please list your flights in the last 12 months."

10. 09. 2007

May we have hard statistics with refences, please, not "government figures"? I have tried in vain to find my carbon footprint for two short flights per year to European countries.

16. 10. 2008

Air travel has become a major part of our society, with industries and individuals depending on air transport for their livelihood. But have you ever wondered what happens to the artifacts of our airborne culture when they're no longer needed? More..

15. 06. 2007

Jonathon, I can't get make sense of this. You are a clever guy with all of the info available to you.Aviation is a climate change issue for us in the UK.

Government figures show that in 2005 aviation accounted for 13% of total UK climate change damage , greater than that of cars (9.3%), home heating (11.1%), or manufacturing and construction (11.3%).

That is an understatement because it is based on departing flights only: if the calculation is based on return flights by UK citizens, the figure would be nearer 20%.

By 2050 aviation, if it were to grow as forecast, would use 100% of the carbon the UK can afford to emit if we adopt the climate change target most scientists think is right.

Is acceptance of these figures and a sense of responsibility around our personal emissions too much to ask?

16. 11. 2007

This is yet another debate which is largely meaningless. If we do not address a number of related issues, such as the purpose of the flight and the carbon footprint of alternative arrangements, the change in carbon footprint resulting from the flight. I travel in Indonesia. This is unecessary, however, when there for 12 weeks a year my carbon footprint is drastically reduced, which more than compensates for the CO2 emissions of the plane.

Further the debate in the UK seems to have got hung up on passanger traffic. Food and product miles are increasing and I don't hear too much from the green lobby about bringing production back to the UK so that we reduce pollution generally and CO2 emissions in particular.

Interestingly, I have never heard the term wine miles. Is it that it is OK to transport wine(water) and glass from NewZealand, Australia etc? Can't we have have a campaign in favour of European wines especially those produced at home? Or do greens like their cheap antipodean wines too much!!!!

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