This article was published in Info 4 Outlaws, the official Just Do It newspaper. If you’re interested in seeing Just Do It, the acclaimed feature documentary about climate activism, then come to our screening on 26th March at Green Lens Studios.
Pretending the Problem Isn’t There Isn’t Going to Make It Go Away Either..
If you wanted to design the ultimate climate activist’s dilemma, you couldn’t do much better than aviation. Let’s face it: being able to fly to other countries is pretty damn cool.
But flying comes with a carbon price tag that we can’t afford to pay. The figures are truly staggering: a short-haul flight emits about a tonne of CO2. the planned expansion of Heathrow Airport – thankfully cancelled – would have emitted the same amount of CO2 as Kenya. You can leave the car at home and turn off your telly at the wall, but hop on a plane and all the good you’re doing is wiped out in the time it takes to call RyanAir and book a window seat.
If that isn’t enough to make you reach for the in-flight sick bag, how’s this: the complex mix of chemicals that pour out of a plane’s engines and the height at which they’re emitted has a multiplying effect scientists call radiative forcing. In layperson’s terms, it means you can take those emissions and double them to get the real-world climate impact.
Take radiative forcing into account and that round-trip flight to Australia costs you the same amount of CO2 as the average person in the UK emits in an entire year (and people in the UK fly more than in any other country on earth.)
The aviation industry wants you to think there’s a quick fix. We’ve seen aeroplanes running on algae; aeroplanes with solar panels on the wings and aeroplanes which look awesome on paper but which will never get off the ground. Unfortunately, none of them work.
Behind this blatant greenwash, the industry employs an army of lobbyists to push for more airports, bigger runways, to scupper environmental legislation and to make sure that it keeps receiving massive tax breaks from the government. Unlike any other form of transport, they don’t pay any tax on the fuel they use, and the massive public investment in airports acts as a huge subsidy too.
Research shows that its only 10% of the population taking 46% of the flights, so we should start by addressing those frequent business flyers and 4-times-a-year stag weekends in Barcelona. In the slightly longer term, there are a lot of tricky questions that we need to address in terms of the reality of the threat we’re facing and the role that air travel plays as part of it. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to go to the pebbly beach in Brighton, close your eyes and pretend you’re in the Bahamas, but pretending the problem isn’t there isn’t going to make it go away either.
The new infrastructure most airports need to increase their capacity makes them vulnerable to direct action when construction is going on. The 3rd runway at Heathrow was a done deal, but through a diversity of tactics the impossible has happened – expansion at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted have all been cancelled. However, the Tories are quite happy to wave through expansion in places where they can get away with it. If one of them is near you, it’s almost certainly the biggest carbon emitter in the area. Manchester, Southend, Birmingham, Aberdeen and Bristol are all due to start construction projects soon. Get in touch.
Article published in Info 4 Outlaws the official Just Do It newspaper
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