Saturday, July 03, 2010

Britain Wants to Reduce Air Travel

The British government has announced that they will not build a third runway at London's Heathrow Airport, and it's two secondary airports, citing concerns about Briton's wanton travel and the country's GHG emissions.

This is a courageous stand, if perhaps misguided. But it's tricky.
The government decided that enabling more flying was incompatible with Britain’s oft-stated goal of curbing emissions. Britons have become accustomed to easy, frequent flying — jetting off to weekend homes in Spain and bachelor parties in Prague — as England has become a hub for low-cost airlines. The country’s 2008 Climate Change Act requires it to reduce emissions by at least 34 percent by 2020 from levels reached in 1990.

“The emissions were a significant factor” in the decision to cancel the runway-building plans, Teresa Villiers, Britain’s minister of state for transport, said in an interview. “The 220,000 or so flights that might well come with a third runway would make it difficult to meet the targets we’d set for ourselves.” She said that local environmental concerns like noise and pollution around Heathrow also weighed into the decision.

To an observer of the American political scene, it's beyond astonishing that any politician would take a stand against commercial growth in the name of GHG cutbacks. Simply unbelievable.

No one here would ever take such a published climate plan so seriously.

People everywhere, including Britain, seem to have decided that they're not going to lose any weight anyhow, so they might as well eat all the creamy desserts they want.

But I am not convinced that asceticism is the path towards solving the problem of anthropogenic climate change.

Look, people need to fly. People want to fly, to travel, to explore the world. Instead of denying them that ability, which I suspect is even more ingrained in Europeans than Americans, we need to find a way of flying that does not generate GHGs, instead of simply denying people's ability to travel.

This is, admittedly difficult. Of all transportation sector technologies, air travel seems to be the most dependent on fossil fuels, i.e. the technology that seems unreplacable by non-fossil fuel sources.

So what to do, besides more research...? Britian's decision is only likely to alienate their citizens, who might now just take the Chunnel to Calais and fly from there. That might even be a net increase in GHG emissions.

I just need to repeat: the answer to this immense problems is not austerity. It is new technologies.


Anonymous said...


"I just need to repeat: the answer to this immense problems is not austerity. It is new technologies."

I couldn't agree more. Here is my favorite (although it is really not new). Also endorsed by Dr. James Hansen.

If "warmers" would join Dr Hansen and push this technology as a solution to AGW "skeptics" would enthusiastically support it.


Anonymous said...

You can see the article


David Appell said...

How are such reactors going to power aircraft?

Steve Bloom said...

The low-emitting air travel solution is, of course, blimps/dirigibles. They don't need runways. They are slower, but London to Spain or Prague isn't all that far, plus they don't need large hub airports the way jets do, which would save travel time.

Also, I think your premise is wrong-headed. Failing to build a third runway isn't much evidence of asceticism; tearing out one of the existing ones would be.

Anonymous said...

For aircraft you continue to use fossil fuels or synthetic fuels generated by the reactor waste heat.

The low hanging fruit for thorium reactors is displacing coal fired electricity generation. You then can shift to electric trains, PHEV etc.


Dano said...

I = P x A x T



dining room tables said...

I am not against on what they are planning. What they are doing is just right. That is going to be a big help to make our earth heal from its wounds.