The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

What’s So Special About Air Travel?

Posted by The Futility Monster on September 10, 2009 @ 06:32

Often heard on Ryanair: "Excuse me dear, but would you mind if you put the Lambrini away? It's putting me off my single malt."

Often heard on Ryanair: "Excuse me dear, but would you mind if you put the Lambrini away? It's putting me off my single malt."

If there was one piece of news I enjoyed a lot in the past 24 hours it was the report by the Climate Change Committee that making special exemptions for the air travel sector is going to mean the sacrifices required elsewhere are going to be even greater.

Does anyone seriously believe we can manage a 90% cut in carbon emissions by 2050? Even the 80% ambition is incredible, but the CCC have calculated that, if we are going to allow for continued growth in aviation – as we intend to – the requirements from other sectors will be much greater.

It’s not going to happen.

The problem to me is that aviation really isn’t pulling its weight. Emissions from the sector are enormous, and, in any case, are far more damaging to the environment because of the fact that they are placed directly into the sky.

But why does it get such special treatment anyway? Why should it be that Heathrow gets its third runway when all other sectors are being asked to be more environmentally friendly? Why does even the slightest hint of making the airline operators pay their fair share get media whore, and Ryanair boss, Michael O’ Leary out with his rent-a-quotes?

For an even more obvious demonstration, the Kyoto protocol allows countries to exclude aviation emissions. And that has even possibly been the plan too for any post-Kyoto settlement.

Is it because it’s politically difficult? After all, we’ve apparently become accustomed to our cheap flights. Cheap flights which bear no consequence to the damage done to the environment, but we’ll conveniently ignore that.

No… it would be too difficult to go on air and tell people that “the era of air travel is over”. One might even call it electoral suicide. After all, looked at from the perspective of social justice, it’s not fair that the rich have always had access to air travel, yet when the lower classes are finally able to afford cheap flights, the rich start getting all uppity and suddenly want to slam the cabin door when the Ibiza and Magaluf-bound start crashing the party.

It’s an appealing argument, but it is a false sanctuary. It leaves the issue unchallenged. Sadly, we really are going to have to tell the plebs that the costs must rise. They’ve had their fun, but – alas – we must answer to our higher responsibility to look after this planet.

Or maybe there are other reasons for ignoring aviation. Perhaps politicians just like it too much. Does money change hands? Or does the industry move in more mysterious ways? After all, no politician would want to give up their junkets to foreign lands for “fact-finding” purposes.

But the CCC have at least raised the issue and warned politicians that they are ignoring the elephant in the room.

It’s now a question of whether the rest of us care enough or are prepared to make the personal sacrifices that will be necessary to tackle the environmental challenge of the coming decades.

If we’re not, then don’t be surprised when our politicians don’t have the bottle to take us on.

That’s the way politics works, after all.

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