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.

Greenland Ice Facing an Early Melt Season (and new records)

An interesting article by the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI), detailing this year’s extraordinarily warm arctic winter and accelerating Greenland melt rates.

20160412.. Unusually Early Greenland Melt (Danish Meteorological Institute, PolarPortal.dk)

(click on image to view article at polarportal.dk)

Given that the mainstream media (and the airlines and other industries that buy services from the media) continue to downplay and ignore these developments, here is a simple list of what this plausibly means re our planetary future:

  1. melting Greenland ice is creating a lens of cold fresh water, accumulating in the northern Atlantic; this is shunting the warm-water Gulf Stream, which backs up against the cold lens and is forced to dive under the cold fresh water.
  2. the result, in climate terms, is a developing configuration with an area of very warm water adjacent to an area of very cold water; this configuration tends to intensify weather patterns, creating a high frequency of weather events with stronger winds and larger rainfalls/flooding (sort of like turning up the heat under a tea kettle; water that had been warm but quiescent now starts to circulate and bubble).
  3. other climate change results include an intensified north-south flow of weather patterns that causes rapid temperature fluctuations from unseasonably warm to killing frosts; on a local level, this will potentially destroy trees and other perennial plants, while also reducing our ability to produce needed annual food crops.
  4. the ice melt from both Arctic and Antarctic regions will increase the volume of water in our oceans, which in turn will cause tens of meters of sea level rise; major cities (and airports) will be flooded, including: London, New York, Miami, Shanghai, Bangkok, Rome, Buenos Aires, and many more. Hundreds of millions of people will be displaced; extraordinary acreages of the most productive farmland will be lost.

The connection to aviation comes in these ways:

  • First, the evident root cause of this climate change is the collective (and excessive) consumption of fossil fuels by all of humanity.
  • Some forms of fossil fuel consumption are more necessary, while some are more discretionary. While heating homes and providing electricity are relatively ‘necessary’ across the globe, flying for business or pleasure is a very discretionary activity.
  • The per capita rate of fossil fuel consumption is not even close to level; while some populations consume almost no fossil fuels, other populations are ‘off the charts’ due to daily commutes, air travel, suburban sprawl, etc.
  • Aviation is extraordinarily dependent on fossil fuels, in that we are nowhere close to developing alternative energy sources that can efficiently power scheduled passenger or cargo flights.
  • there is no other common human activity that consumes fossil fuels – and generates CO2 and other pollutants – at a faster rate than does aviation. The per capita pollution rate is particularly intense for business jet (bizjet) operations. Instead of tax laws that incentivize acquisition and use of bizjets, we need tax laws that strongly disincentivize.
  • The conversion of farmlands from growing food to growing aviation biofuels is absurd, unjust, and ultimately undermines security across vast regions of the world.
  • The combustion of fossil fuels at higher altitudes is believed to create significant air pollutants, including soot that precipitates onto areas of polar ice, thus further accelerating ice melt and sea level rise.

See also:

Ask John Kerry to Advocate for an Aviation Emissions Cap

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has initiated a letter campaign, seeking to get U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to press for a global cap on international aviation emissions. Here is a screen-capture, linked to a WWF webpage with further info and a quick signup to join the letter campaign.

(click on image to view campaign webpage at WorldWildlife.org)

(click on image to view campaign webpage at WorldWildlife.org)

Fossil Fuel Campaign Contributions: ‘I Am So Sick’

On the campaign trail, candidate Hillary Clinton lost her cool in this quick exchange, caught on video:

citizen: “Thank you for tackling climate change. Will you act on your words and reject future fossil fuel money in your campaign?” 

20160331scp.. 'I am So SICK!'

Hillary: “I do not have… I have money from people who work for fossil fuel companies. I am so sick… I AM SO SICK of the Sanders campaign lying about me. I’m sick of it.”

Hillary then walks on, and resumes working the crowd.

20160331.. 'I'm the Greenpeace Activist who Asked HRC to Pledge rejecting FF money'(E.Resnick-Day, Greenpeace)

(click on image to view a PDF copy of the Greenpeace blog post)

The citizen was Eva Resnick-Day, and she followed up with a blog post about the incident. Eva is NOT affiliated with the Sanders campaign, but works for Greenpeace and is an activist for both democracy and climate action. Given the emerging reality of climate change, and also given the total reliance of aviation on FOSSIL FUELS, it is critical that our future political leaders can recognize the problems and initiate plans to fix the problems. It is also critical that our leaders guide us away from what appears to be a trend toward fascism dressed up as a self-serving ‘collaboration’ between bureaucrats, elected officials and corporate interests … such as we see with today’s matured ‘Av-Gov Complex’.

Hillary’s ‘I am so sick!’ reaction, and her evident intent to continue business as usual is simply unacceptable.

See also:
  • 4/1/2016 – copy of an email sent out by BernieSanders.com. Includes a link to a petition asking candidate Clinton to pledge to reject fossil fuel campaign donations.

Arctic Sea Ice Continues Decaying to Record Lows

Slowly, the mainstream media is coming around to cease enabling denialism of climate change and anthropogenic global warming. An initial watermark was the revelation last year that Exxon Mobil had spent decades hiding research results and giving millions to entities that worked to seed doubt. A more recent watermark is found by simply looking at the Arctic sea ice decline. We reasonably assess polar sea ice decline in three ways: areal extent of the ice, thickness of the ice, and age-distribution of the ice. The latter two parameters are of course closely related.

Here are two graphics depicting the extraordinarily rapid destruction of the Arctic ice that has existed throughout human history, providing a stabilizing base for our weather patterns. The embedded video shows a time-lapse simulation of daily Arctic sea ice extent from September 2015 onward. The JPEG below compiles four images, at 8-year intervals from 1990 to 2014, showing the near-disappearance of all ice more than 2-years old.

SOURCE: NSIDC via Climate Central and Ecowatch.com (click on image to view a 22-second video with weekly ice conditions over the 1990-2015 timeframe)

SOURCE: NSIDC via Climate Central and Ecowatch.com (click on image to view a 22-second video with weekly ice conditions over the 1990-2015 timeframe)

Aviation, especially by residents of the most ‘advanced’ economies, makes a substantial contribution to this sea ice decline, both in generated greenhouse gasses and in dark soot that accumulates on the ice and then accelerates summer melting.

Research suggests that our continued excessive fossil fuel consumption is the root cause of this rapid polar ice decline and related phenomena of global warming, weather intensification, and regional instabilities. Further, that if trends continue, we will soon be urgently seeking ways to stop generating greenhouse gasses such as CO2. This distills down to a problem of hyper-consumption, and in solving the problem one of the easiest targets is aviation. So, perhaps in the next few years we might see a stiff carbon tax on all aviation fuels, to discourage excessive flying in all forms: commercial airline passengers, subsidized bizjets (for business, as well as for golf junkets), and even small plane recreational flying.

See also:
  • 2/21/2016 – What Happens if Arctic Ice Seasonally Disappears?
  • 2/9/2016 – ICAO Announces New CO2 Rules … Their Proposal is All Hype & Offers Little Meaningful Progress
  • 7/24/2015 – Arctic Ice Melt on a Tear in Recent Weeks
  • 12/9/2014 – Oceans Will Rise more Quickly as Antarctic Ice Melt Accelerates
  • 10/9/2012 – Is Arctic ice melting faster than expected?

What Happens if Arctic Ice Seasonally Disappears?

No Winter For the Arctic in 2016 — NASA Marks Hottest January Ever Recorded is a recent Post at RobertScribbler.com. As usual, the blogger does a considerable amount of research and presents some fascinating graphics. One graphic in this Post was particularly compelling:

20160221cpy.. chart showing 2016 2m temps north of 80N, plotted over 1980-2010 distribution

(This chart shows temperature distributions by date, based on NOAA data for the years 1980 through 2010. Note the gray bands related to temperature probabilities: a wide light gray band shows all values, a narrower medium gray band shows a 15-85% probability range, a narrower darker gray band shows a 30-70% probability range, and the thick black line shows the median value for 1980 through 2010. Data for the year 2016 is superimposed in red; notice how it plots far warmer than the median. The thin red box at the top, across the May-October portion of the curve, and the orange vertical lines were added by aiREFORM.)

The compelling part of this graphic is in the center: that thin, flat line at the top, during the summer months. It shows that, for a few months of the year, Arctic temperatures steady out right at the freezing point, 32 degrees Fahrenheit. The thin/flat line also begs the question: why? And, a few follow-up questions, such as: will it always be this way, or will it eventually change, and how will those changes impact our environment across the planet?

The answers seem obvious, and troubling. On a hot day, if we get a beverage with ice, the temperature of that liquid hovers at freezing, so long as there remains at least a little ice in the water. When the ice is gone, though, the temperature of our refreshing liquid rapidly mimics the air temperature. So, the flat area at the top of this chart, generally for the 3-month period from June through August, shows almost zero temperature variation – just a steady 32 degrees Fahrenheit. It appears that the melting of Arctic ice provides a moderating effect, steadying air temperatures right at 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

Take away that ice and what will happen? There will no longer be a moderating effect. In fact, we reasonably should see a pair of short transition periods, in the Spring and Fall, when patterns of solar energy and air temperatures cause weeks of transition between ice and water. But, between these transition periods, when the ice is fully melted, the energy buffering related to daily water phase changes from liquid to solid and back to liquid is gone, so there can no longer be a moderating effect. And, additionally, it seems likely that the time-window during which Arctic temperatures can substantially exceed freezing will lengthen, spanning not just 3-months but eventually to even 7-months, from April through October.

How will this impact our environment? Logically, it means the entire hemisphere becomes at play in the weather system during the ice-free months. The stabilizing effect that has always existed, throughout the entire history of humankind, will be gone. Weather systems, needed to distribute energy excesses in equatorial regions, will now play out with greater intensity, higher frequency, and over the full distance from equator to pole. Longer seasons for hurricanes and tornadoes; stronger weather changes that can destroy crops and even kill perennials (forests, orchards, berries, grapes).

Big Oil and others, including the Av-Gov Complex, would like us all to believe otherwise: just keep on consuming, indeed consume even more per person; fly even more, and buy even more products shipped by air. And, they are getting lots of help from the captured agencies and bought-up elected officials in today’s corrupt system. But, then again, all of the Av-Gov Complex players do personally benefit when aviation impacts are maximized along with revenues and profits….

See also:
  • ‘How Far Can We Get Without Flying?’ – a Yes! Magazine article by Peter Kalmus, a JPL climate scientist, who doesn’t just quit flying, he also writes to help others who want to reduce their carbon footprint. Click here to view a scrollable PDF copy.

Arctic Sea Ice Setting Multiple New Record Lows in 2016

The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), in Boulder, CO, updates a webpage each day, showing the measured sea ice extent for both the Arctic and Antarctic polar regions. The data is presented via a user-customizable chart, called the ‘Charctic Interactive Sea Ice Graph’. Here is a screen-cap of a recent chart, with additional content added by aiREFORM.com:20160218scp.. Peak date arctic sea ice extent

This chart shows daily Arctic sea ice extent for selected years (2006, 2007, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016) for the calendar window from approximately January 15th through March 26th each year. The  color-codes for the lines representing each year are noted in the index; the heavy black line (highest plot) represents an average for all years 1981-2010. The gray background band represents a range of +/-2 standard deviations for the 1981-2010 dataset.

For each calendar year, there is a date at which the peak Arctic sea ice extent is reached. Following that date, sea ice extent declines until reaching an annual cyclical bottom, typically in mid- to late- September. Vertical red lines have been added to help see the dates of peak sea ice extent. The ‘average’ date for peak ice, as suggested by the 1981-2010 average plot, is March 13th. Note that the peak for 2015 was the earliest on record: February 25th. Now, for this year, as of February 17th, the Arctic sea ice extent is 14.203 square kilometers. We are at an all-time low record, and nearly 2% below last year, when we had 14.469 square kilometers extent.

So far this year, the sea ice extent has set new records for three different time periods: January 3-9, February 2-6, and for the past week (starting on February 11). This data offers yet one more indicator suggesting that we are imposing very rapid and very significant warming onto our planet, with a consequence of accelerated polar ice melting.

See also:

Global Atmospheric CO2 Appears to be Accelerating

Of the many adverse impacts caused by aviation, the slowest to set in is likely climate change, as will eventually follow from our excessive consumption of fossil fuels. One of the points emphasized within this website is that aviation, with very high fuel burn rates needed to power aircraft, has an exceptionally high rate of CO2 generation per minute. Another key point is that the ‘decision’ to travel by air is exceptionally discretionary. In other words, in the largest analysis we do not have to travel long distances, but it has been our cultural habit that ‘we choose to’, and in so doing we generate a very substantial CO2 impact in a short period of time. Seemingly, if we ever get serious about reducing our CO2 generation, aviation is a logical first target – the easy-to-pick low-hanging fruit. An easy adjustment to our cultural habit will be to significantly reduce air travel, and also ensure our aviation regulators are disincentivizing fuel-inefficient practices such as trips via hubs off the direct route, or use of over-congested airports.

Regular measurements of the level of atmospheric CO2 began in the late 1950s. The Keeling Curve is broadly accepted as the original and longest standing CO2 chart, depicting daily readings near the summit of Mauna Loa in Hawaii. Here is a recent screen capture of the Keeling Curve, posted by Scripps:20160217scp.. Keeling Curve, 2yr view, annotated for annual changesAt the Scripps website, the chart is viewable in a variety of timeframes. The above is a 2-year view, showing readings from mid-February 2014 through 2/15/2016. The curve is striking in its regularity, and in the consistent sawtooth pattern that has been climbing roughly two parts per million each year. On this image, lines have been added (red, and orange) to aid in quantifying year-to-year changes. The annual changes are then quantified, using red numbers (e.g., “+2.0”). The four annual changes, in sequence, are:

  1. peak 2014 to peak 2015 (approx. 5/20/2015): +2.0 ppm
  2. trough 2014 to trough 2015 (approx. 9/25/2015): +2.7 ppm
  3. January 1, 2015 to January 1, 2016: +3.0 ppm
  4. February 1, 2015 to February 1, 2016: +3.1ppm.

This would appear to show a substantial acceleration has occurred since last May. We will know better in another year, if it is a data anomaly or the leading edge of a major shift. If it is the latter, we can expect further acceleration of polar ice melts, sea rise, and weather intensification and ‘weirding’.

The case for a unified action against climate change may soon become more urgent.

One U.S. Corporation, AT&T, Warned Us About Climate Change in 1958

Sixty years ago, CO2 was not even an issue. There were some scientists thinking ahead and stating it might eventually become an issue, but it was not until the late 1950s that we even developed a means to accurately measure atmospheric CO2, to document trends from year to year. Surprisingly, one of those early ‘scientists’ was actually a ‘scientist character’ in a science film directed by Frank Capra. Mr. Capra is familiar to many who have watched classic movies he directed in the 1930s and 1940s, such as ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’ and ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, both starring James Stewart. Mr. Capra earned his college degree at Cal Tech, after studying chemical engineering. He got into the film industry and was successful, winning three ‘Best Director’ Oscars by 1938. When World War II broke out, Mr. Capra enlisted in the Army, where he helped create propaganda films. In the mid-1950s, he was hired by the original telecommunications giant, AT&T, to produce the first four in a series of nine educational films called ‘The Bell Laboratory Science Series’. These 16mm films were widely distributed to schools, free of charge. Estimates are that, by the late 1960s, five million school children and a half million college students had watched these films.

The fourth film by Mr. Capra was released in 1958, the same year FAA was created by Congress. ‘Unchained Goddess’ presents a discussion between a scientist and a writer, rehearsing for their science TV show. Their work area includes a ‘magic screen’ upon which animation appears. Part of that animation is a set of weather gods, including Meteora, the Goddess of Weather. The interactions with the magic screen and the animated figures aids in explaining all sorts of weather phenomena, while also showing weather equipment and the labor-intensive work of technicians at the National Weather Analysis Center.20160217scp.. labor-intensive weather bureau, at time 2400 of 1958 version 'Unchained Goddess'Here’s a 2-minute clip focused on the portion most relevant today, where Mr. Capra’s scientist offers the 1958 view of possible consequences of global warming:

A Series of Embedded Videos:

Isaac Asimov, speaking in January 1989 (~2-minutes):

A short film from perhaps 3-5 years ago, featuring the start of “Unchained Goddess’, followed by a plausible documentary looking back from the year 2053 (6-minutes)…

…and an image within this film, showing rising seas inundating the southeast:20160217scp.. SE U.S. 30m sea level rise, from time 0422 in short-updated version of 'Unchained Goddess'
Lastly, the complete 1958 film by Frank Capra (55-minutes):