New Brochure Debunks Greenwashing

A new brochure has been published by Finance & Trade Watch, an NGO based in Vienna, Austria. Authored by Magdalena Heuwieser, the 24-pages debunk many of the most common forms of aviation greenwashing. The brochure includes lots of interesting insight that will further inform about the state of regulatory capture that applies not just to FAA but also to the international body, ICAO.

Here is a short index:

  • Pg.4: Headlong growth in a green guise
  • Pg.7: Fantasy technologies and green kerosene
  • Pg.9: Offsetting emissions: a licence to pollute
  • Pg.11: International aviation’s climate plan: CORSIA
  • Pg.14: Green airports? Offsetting emissions and biodiversity
  • Pg.17: Flying with a clear conscience? Individual offsetting of air travel
  • Pg.19: What now? Summing up and looking ahead
  • Pg.21: On the move: resistance highlights

Click here to view an archived copy of the 2-page Executive Summary; click on the image below to view/download the full brochure.

Click on the image below for a scrollable view; the PDF file may be downloaded.


UPDATE, 11/30/2017: — Excellent overview posted at GAAM (the Global Anti-Aerotropolis Movement); more great work by Rose Bridger.

WaPost OpEd: “For the Love of Earth, Stop Traveling”

An opinion piece in the Washington Post lays out the simple answers: air travel consumes far too much energy, creates far too much environmental damage, per person. Good points.

The simple solution is for more of us to voluntarily travel, a lot less. The government would help, a lot, if they would impose a very steep aviation carbon tax, with all revenues going to reducing other personal taxes and/or funding far more energy-efficient transportation modes, to replace the energy-efficiency of aviation.

Check out this archived opinion piece, as well as the telling reader comments.

Click on the image below for a scrollable view; the PDF file may be downloaded.

The UN aviation deal (by ICAO) is cheating the climate

No accountability.

When we have so many layers, so many players, we end up with a process that creates an illusion of a just and thoughtful outcome, when in fact all we have are ‘players’ who cover for further industry expansion.

Here’s a video from a year ago, by FERN.org, pointing out the injustices inside ICAO’s latest schemes:

A Steep Aviation Carbon Tax Would Solve Many Aviation Impacts

Image

(click on image to view source tweet)

Aviation is heavily subsidized when Congress approves taxes on passenger tickets and air cargo, then uses those taxes to expand airports beyond what serves the local community. Congress can do better. They need to implement fees and taxes that disincentivize the excessive carbon consumption by commercial operators. Here are some of the many benefits:

  • fewer hub flights (and thus more direct flights)
  • reduced noise and air pollutant impacts, along with more sleep and preserved quality of life, in communities currently being destroyed by NextGen
  • less aviation CO2 pollution per passenger (due to shorter/direct trips replacing indirect flights via hubs)
  • reduced delays (especially at hub airports)

Hubristic and Hypocritical?

The Av-Gov Spin Machine is hard at it again, this time led by Reuters:

Just days after Trump dumped the climate agreement, U.S. airlines and their lobby, Airlines for America (A4A), are telling us that they really care about CO2, climate change, and the impacts of their industry. We are to believe that a business model that sells time-savings by massively consuming fossil fuels can be environmentally responsible. The centerpiece of their ICAO-sourced plan is not to reduce consumption but to have passengers and shippers pay a fee that offsets aviation impacts with small environmental investments. Kinda like this: imagine that you and I have a company and we’ll be allowed to infinitely pollute the ocean, so long as we build a nice filtration system to clean a pond in West Podunk. If eyes were pointed at that pond, we’d look like heroes; but, when people see the full picture, we look like worthless scoundrels.

Oh, and this is an industry (and lobbyist) that crows everyday about one statistic or another showing continued market growth. So, really, how are they going to see any meaningful reduction in fossil fuel consumption, going forward? Also, this ‘we care about the environment’ spin was announced from Cancun, where industry officials had gathered from around the world. Let that sink in.


UPDATE, 6/8/2017: — To discourage excessive fossil fuel consumption for air cargo, business travel, and aviation tourism, the logical next step is to simply impose a steep carbon tax on all aviation fuels (and arguably, on the marine sector, too, thus covering ship tourism and marine cargo). Here’s a good analysis about the value of an aviation carbon tax, by two law professors in Western Australia: Airline emissions and the case for a carbon tax on flight tickets. Read the interesting reader comments, too.

A Classic Image in the War Against Carbon

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(click on image to view lots more, tweeted by 'ITryNotToFly')

(click on image to view lots more, tweeted by ‘ITryNotToFly’)

We Should All Be So Brave.

Let’s hope, in this New Year, we continue to see great creative effort and expression by some of the wonderful bloggers fighting for our planet and our future!

Have We Just Seen a Drastic Change in Polar Ice?

Here’s a possibly weak analogy, but I think it makes the point well. Suppose you drive a car everyday and for a few months now you have listened to a squeak that you are pretty sure indicates you need to get maintenance on your brakes. Months have passed since you first realized this, because you have been busy and distracted. Minutes ago, while you were doing your normal drive, a failure happened, and that annoying squeak suddenly became something much bigger. Your instincts kicked in and you wrestled for control while veering off the road, struggling to avoid damaging your vehicle, yourself, and others.

That car might in fact be our planet, our climate system, our future. Do you see the problem? The analogy applies to the polar ice data, discussed below.

What Happened in October This Year?

Has our climate change situation ‘veered off course’ in the middle of 2016? Charts showing daily sea ice extent in both the Arctic and Antarctic polar regions suggest this is distinctly possible. See the screencaps below, showing two charts, both copied from the National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC) website, out of Boulder, CO. For both images, aiREFORM has selected sea ice extent for all years, 2005 through 2016, and only for the last four months of each calendar year. Note that the heavy black line represents the average from 1981 through 2000; the light gray band represents a two standard deviation statistical range either side of the average. Lastly, and most importantly, note the extraordinary departure of the dark red line at the bottom: this is 2016, and for both polar regions, the drop away from normality is as if a wheel fell off our loaded Christmas shopping cart.

20161210scp-nsidc-arctic-2005-2016-plots-for-final-5-months-of-calendar-year

NSIDC chart showing Arctic Sea Ice Extent, all years 2005-2016, for the last four months of the calendar year

20161210scp-nsidc-antarctic-2005-2016-plots-for-final-5-months-of-calendar-year

NSIDC chart showing Antarctic Sea Ice Extent, all years 2005-2016, for the last four months of the calendar year

And here’s another analogy. If an egg falls off a wall, is it possible, the consequences are irrecoverable? And, just how fragile is our climate? Would we be helping future generations if we were mindful to consume energy in moderation?

How This Connects to Air Travel

I was recently sent a link to a blog by a former air traffic controller spending a few years as a travelling ex-pat, living and travelling all over the globe. He essentially lays out why he now owns two valid U.S. passports, with this paragraph:

To me, it is perfectly reasonable to want to rush to a place because you can’t get a song out of your head: “London Calling,” “Kathmandu,” “Kashmir,” “New York, New York,” “Marrakesh Express?” I see nothing wrong with making a last-minute trip to Turkey just because there is a fantastic new seafood place on the Aegean Sea in Alacati. If the wildebeest migration is supposed to be especially photogenic in Tanzania next week, I want to be there. If you too think these things are reasonable, maybe you too should look into getting a second passport.

Now, don’t get me wrong. It is wonderful that people can travel and feel a richer life experience, day-to-day. But this activity, this level of consumption, has negative impacts. Others pay costs – some immediately, some in due time.

The immediate impacts are that the higher consumption of air miles translates to more flights, more planes per hour at locations already burdened with repetitive noise and air pollutant impacts; e.g., we see FAA working to add runway throughput at the hub airports, which causes perpetual sleep loss under the new NextGen routes.

The not-so-immediate impacts are, quite potentially, the destruction of the capacity of our planet to grow enough food and sustain many species. And, holy crap, looking at these two charts and applying decades’ worth of trained and experienced analytical skills, I can say: objectively, probabilities are much higher that these charts portend a serious and rapidly intensifying problem, versus the opposite.

Look, I’m not trying to be alarmist here, I’m just saying: let’s be fully eyes-open and awake with the decisions we make about how we each live, especially about our energy consumption, our own personal carbon footprint. To my friend, who is also a retired FAA air traffic controller, I’ll briefly rebut: “No, it is NOT perfectly reasonable to want to rush to a place because you can’t get a song out of your head. Just look at the charts above.”

Indeed, moderation is a beautiful thing.

WTO Finding: Boeing’s 777 Project was Illegally Subsidized by State Legislature

LeehamNews.com does a great job covering the commercial aviation manufacturing industry, especially the often complex politics surrounding Boeing in the U.S. versus Airbus in the E.U. The latest blogpost, ‘Airbus, Boeing claim victory in today’s WTO ruling over Washington State tax breaks’, goes deep into the WTO panel report that was just issued today: ‘Dispute Settlement – Dispute DS487, United States — Conditional Tax Incentives for Large Civil Aircraft’. Essentially, WTO found Boeing’s 777 project was illegally subsidized by tax incentives created by the state legislature, in House Bill ESSB 5952. That legislation, passed in November 2013, was aimed at securing local jobs, thus improperly favoring the local economy.

This subject area is a bit off-topic for aiREFORM but worth archiving here, as it sheds further light on the extent of subsidy that props up aviation. We often hear that airports and aviation are huge catalysts for local economic development. Well, it turns out, this line is just more spin to dupe elected officials and citizens into accepting the latest aviation development scheme. In most examples, subsidies such as the huge tax reductions and tax credits given to Boeing, come with substantial costs elsewhere. Two key areas where the costs are transferred elsewhere:

  1. somebody has to pay the taxes that are excused when legislators offer sweet deals to large corporations; that burden falls more heavily on the regular Joe taxpayers, the ones raising families, for example.
  2. when jobs are sucked up into concentrated mega-factories, like the new wing production plant in Everett (at KPAE), those jobs no longer exist dispersed over numerous smaller communities. Time and again, those small communities start to shut down and become economic wastelands with relic facilities now standing silent.

When viewed objectively the ‘net economic benefit’ becomes just a wash, really nothing to get excited about.

Much like our federal laws have enabled banks to concentrate and become ‘too big to fail’, laws related to aviation have enabled airlines, airports, and manufacturers to concentrate, becoming ‘too big to function without imposing excessive impacts’. These impacts need to be objectively addressed, not glossed over because they do not conform to a propaganda campaign. Congress has failed us big time, these past few decades, and the trend does not look promising.


UPDATE, 11/29/2016: — Two months ago, WTO made a similar finding, but precisely opposite, finding illegal subsidies of Airbus by the EU. There is an apparent history of legal busy-bodies doing a huge amount of work and rendering critical decisions, but in the end taking no real action to change anything. This pattern is much like we see with FAA’s faux-regulation of aviation interests.
The documentation is deep, but a fascinating read. There is much to be learned about the politics (and complete absence of free and open markets) in aviation, by looking at related articles and past WTO actions. See, for example:
  • 9/22/2016 – a 574-page report issued by WTO, in response to the United States’ complaint against the European Union (EU)
  • 9/22/2016 – 154-page Addendum to the above report. See in particular the Executive Summaries submitted by the two parties.
  • 9/22/2016 – LeehamNews Post summarizing the report issued by WTO.
  • 11/29/2016 – 154-page Addendum to the above report. See in particular the Executive Summaries submitted by the two parties.

Why We Need a Steep Carbon Tax on All Aviation Fuels

Other than war and arson, Aviation is the fastest way for an individual to generate carbon dioxide. Aviation is also a discretionary activity. As this graph shows, Arctic Sea Ice extent is collapsing, even in November. That’s right; the North Pole has been sunless for nearly two months now, and the entire Arctic Ocean region is now seeing no sunlight (the sun ‘set for the winter’ on 11/19, at Barrow, AK, which is at 71° N Latitude) … and yet Arctic Sea Ice extent is IN DECLINE!

We are now far below the average sea ice extent of the recent decades. Given trends this past decade, it is now highly probable that we will see an Arctic Ocean nearly free of ice within the next decade.

(click on image to see the source graphic, updated daily by National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSDC))

(click on image to see the source graphic, updated daily by National Snow & Ice Data Center)

Current CO2 levels are the highest they have been since our species evolved to make tools, grow crops, and invent things like wheels & air travel. And, due to our extreme appetite for fossil fuel consumption, the record levels continue year after year, as reflected in the incredible seasonal regularity of the Keeling Curve.

File:Mauna Loa Carbon Dioxide.png

‘The Keeling Curve’ — The downward part of each annual cycle, from May to October, shows the importance of healthy vegetative growth. Essentially, plants consume CO2 from the atmosphere when healthy and growing. Development, land-clearing, and herbicides all reduce the health and diversity of our plants, and thus destroy the ability of our planet to check CO2 levels. Eventually, weather extremes and wildfires will diminish the vegetative growth, tipping the balance still further toward a physically hostile living environment.

Note that this is a copy of the Keeling Curve through 2010. In the six years since, the pattern has continued and in fact the rate of CO2 growth is accelerating; click here to see the current Keeling Curve, at Scripps .

Why an Aviation Carbon Tax?

Taxes are necessary to fund basic government programs. It makes sense to couple necessary taxation with incentives that correct growing problems. So, a steep tax on all aviation fuels, if designed to be ‘revenue-neutral’, would disincentivize excessive air travel, while also generating revenues that could substantially reduce income (and other) taxes. Here’s more about how this tax would work, and the diversity of people who support the concept:

Click on the image below for a scrollable view; the PDF file may be downloaded.

Global Action Week Against Aviation Growth & Airport Expansion Projects

From an email sent out by GAAM…

Global Anti-Aerotropolis Movement (GAAM) is helping to mobilize for a ‘Global Action Week: Stay Grounded. Aviation Growth Cancelled Due to Climate Change’. The initiative is spearheaded by Vienna-based ‘System Change, Not Climate Change!’. The event is taking place end of September/beginning of October to coincide with the annual assembly of the UN aviation organization (ICAO) in Montreal. Groups and individuals from all continents are invited to join in to say NO! to more aviation growth and airport expansion projects.

As of this writing, major actions are planned in Vienna, London, Mexico City, Notre-Dame-des-Landes (near Nantes, France), and Istanbul. Mexican activists fighting a destructive aerotropolis project near Mexico City have already come up with a very impressive program (see archived copy ‘GAW-Mexico’ in Spanish, English and French).

Any input – big or small – will help to make a difference. Activities may vary from:

  • public awareness raising campaigns (e.g. by producing articles, statements, petitions; photos/videos; writing letters to concerned authorities/companies, etc.);
  • meetings to discuss the issues;
  • photo exhibitions;
  • artistic performances (street theatre, concerts);
  • family-friendly peaceful walks;
  • tree-planting events; and,
  • flash mobs to protest rallies.

Concerned groups and citizens are encouraged to sign on and share the global petition, called ‘No aviation growth! No false climate solutions!’.

Undoubtedly, aviation is a massively polluting industry and one of the fastest growing sources of carbon emissions. Yet, climate change is still conspicuously absent from any discussion around aviation growth. Aviation was excluded from the Paris Agreement signed by the world’s nations at the UN conference (COP21) last December. Therefore, we believe it is high time to step up public pressure at the global level:

  1. to stop unnecessary and destructive airport expansion schemes;
  2. to ensure that aviation is included in all climate change agreements, targets and regulations; and
  3. to achieve actual reductions in aviation emissions instead of false solutions (such as the fake remedies of ‘offsetting’ projects and biofuels).

Well aware of the criticisms, the aviation industry is going all-out to make sure that discussions at the forthcoming ICAO assembly will focus on how aviation supports ‘sustainable development’. The Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), for example, has published a glossy, image-cultivating report, entitled ‘Aviation: Benefits beyond borders’ (July 2016) that provides good insight into the industry’s green-washing attempts and among other things makes preposterous claims on how aviation will help to achieve the UN’s sustainable development goals (see attachment: aviation-SDGs). An archived copy of the full ATAG report can be viewed/downloaded here.

The Global Action Week will be a good opportunity for concerned people to preempt the industry’s nonsensical arguments. Solid evidence will be presented, showing the real and substantial harm done by aviation expansion:

  • …harm to local communities around the world,
  • …harm to the environment,
  • …and harm to our climate.

Please let GAAM know your ideas and plans for the Global Action Week! And, please regularly check here for updates on the campaign.

The text above was derived from an announcement by Anita Pleumarom, GAAM co-ordinating team.