Attacks on air travel

In: Uncategorized

18 Oct 2006

Air travel is becoming a particular target for climate change campaigners. Although air transport currently only accounts for a small percentage of global emissions the proportion is expected to rise rapidly in the coming years. The question is discussed in more detail in a report (PDF) from Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute published yesterday. It also had extensive media coverage including an item with BBC Newsnight’s “ethical man”.

Although the subject demands detailed examination some reasons to question the consensus are already clear. Certainly the argument that most flyers are relatively rich – which is no doubt true – should not be used against cheap flights. The point is that more people than ever can afford to fly and that number should be increased much further. Mobility has both enormous economic benefits and is a key component of freedom.

Paul Charles, a spokesman for Virgin Atlantic, also makes a good point in an article on the report on BBC online: “We’ve suggested starting grids at airports, so that planes don’t have to run their engines for half an hour all the way to the runway while they’re queuing up. That will cut millions of tonnes of CO2 emissions.” So building larger and better airports could help reduce emissions.

No doubt over time aircraft engines can also be made even cleaner and more efficient. They are already much better than they used to be and this trend will continue.

Brendan O’Neill has written an article on the snobbery surrounding cheap flights on spiked and there is a debate on the subject at the Battle of Ideas.