Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Carbon sums of Bristol International Airport dont add up!!

No comments:
Spokesman for Bristol International Airport James Gore (one assumes no relation Al Gore!) might have a stronger case for airport expansion and more flying if his carbon sums added up but they don’t (‘Flight path to a greener future or flying in the face of climate change?’, Bristol Evening Post, 14 August).

The beneficial effect of the doubling of aircraft fuel efficiency he refers to is far outweighed by the massive growth in numbers of flights, passengers and goods carried, and total distance travelled. Growth in air travel is exponential, thus total fuel consumption and consequent carbon emissions wont be kept down without addressing this growth. This is clearly demonstrable in figures.

I have been annually calculating my three person household’s ecological footprint, along with my students, for the past seven years. This year the figure was 10,400 square metres of land, with no flights taken. If we flew on just one 10,000 km round trip holiday from Bristol Airport (a common travelling distance), this footprint would rise, according to the EcoCal computer model used, to 14,400 square metres – a 38% increase. The single round trip would then be the biggest contributor to our footprint at 28% of the total, approx the same as all household heating and lighting for a year and slightly more than the impact of household travel by all other methods.

Any carbon savings that might result from people travelling shorter distances to their regional airport as opposed to going to London are trifling. After all people are travelling tens or hundreds of kilometres to the airport but are then getting on a plane to travel thousands or tens of thousands of miles. Its obvious that to tackle climate change one should first address the issue of encouraging the travelling of the greatest distances.

The same argument also applies to any carbon savings made from the various environmental plans and targets to do with airport buildings, renewable energy, and aircraft operational procedures. I don’t dismiss these and we should save all carbon emissions where we can - best, of course, to start by prioritising the biggest emissions sources first ie ever more flying!

EasyJet spokeswoman Sara Pritchard feels that low cost airlines are not more polluting, citing the use of newer, cleaner planes, and a code of environmental conduct. She is backed, not surprisingly by BIAs spokesman James Gore who states that the ‘low-cost mode is inherently greener’. I’m not against cleaner planes, however, both James and Sara fail to mention the effect of a very key factor – cost. The law of supply and demand says that the lower the cost of a product the higher the demand. Since EasyJet offers very low cost air travel then it stimulates very high demand! This is obviously neither low pollution or inherently green since we need to lower demand to achieve these ends.