A Steep Aviation Carbon Tax Would Solve Many Aviation Impacts

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(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.

Fake News, or Did Trump Just Swear an Oath to Climate Change Denialism?

(click on image to view source article at Reuters)

We’ve seen so much propaganda, manipulation and false news, especially that generated by the political parties and the mainstream media, that it is easy to hope this is just another false report. After all, with all the data indicating we are setting records for average high temperature, lowest polar sea ice extent, record high atmospheric CO2 concentrations, and more, it sure seems like a bad time to start a war against science and facts. And, cabinet picks aligned with BigOil and BigBanks do not bode well, especially when so many selectees are so staunchly anti-environment.

It’s just our planet, right? Yeah. Right.

Let’s hope President Trump will surprise us. He needs to get serious about the prospective collapse that anthropogenic climate change will deliver, because he’ll earn the blame when his bad decisions tip the balance.

On the chance that the Reuters story is true, all the Climate Change Indicator documents have been copied, and are archived at this aiREFORM webpage. Study them at your leisure, while also distilling the pattern of low Arctic sea ice extent annual records in the table below. Click here to view screencaps of the EPA ‘Climate Change’ webpage, as it appeared prior to Presidential censorship.

A table showing year of minimum arctic sea ice extent for each day of the year. The smaller table at the bottom lists number of record days each calendar year, and number of spans (consecutive days the same year). Spans range from 4 days (2007) to 94 days (since 10/22/2016).


See also:

UPDATE, 1/26/2016: — as of 1:00PM PST, still no noticeable changes to the EPA webpages being tracked. Perhaps Mr. Trump is backing down, or perhaps Reuters overstated the threat in their original news story?

UPDATE, 2/5/2016: — as of 8:45AM PST, still no noticeable changes to the EPA webpages being tracked. The reports and materials remain viewable and downloadable. It would appear that, despite the horrific cabinet choices from BigOil and wealth-elite elements of the oligarchy, President Trump’s ‘threat’ to hide climate science information was overstated by Reuters in their original news story. The key lesson to learn from this is that we all must be awake and leery, not just of the White House occupant and other elected officials, but also of the mainstream media (MSM), with its long track record of distortion to feed a specific political agenda.

(click on image to view source tweet)

EPA’s Online Resources

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(map and table, showing EPA’s ten administrative regions)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created in 1970 “…for the purpose of protecting human health and the environment by writing and enforcing regulations based on laws passed by Congress.”

The effectiveness of EPA has been questioned by practically everyone; pro-commerce types swear EPA is too onerous, while pro-environment types insist EPA consistently falls short in protecting the environment.

Back in 1970, the year of the first ‘Earth Day’, our Congress was as constructively focused on environmental issues as they have ever been. Sadly, most Congress’s since have served commerce far ahead of people, passing laws, bending rules, and granting targeted exemptions that always further undermine EPA. This includes in the area of aviation impacts. Congress has consistently redistributed authority away from EPA and into FAA, on critical environmental matters including aviation noise and leaded aviation fuel. And, Congress has also consistently federalized authority; they’d rather strip local officials of their basic rights to run their local airports to serve the needs of their local community, and instead give that authority to faceless and unaccountable FAA bureaucrats.

A regulatory agency can be constrained by laws, but the most fundamental power is in information. Thus, even a defanged EPA can empower people, so that each individual can understand environmental impacts and effectively advocate for their family, to protect their environment. EPA can serve us – and they do, with work such as their ‘Citizen Science for Environmental Protection’ Program (selected content copied and archived here). But, and especially in the present political landscape, it is UP TO EACH OF US to do the work beyond the data: we have to take that data, formulate the message, and advocate the change.

So, for example, we can look at reports such as this one, showing diminished air quality and other impacts in the neighborhoods to the north of SeaTac Airport [KSEA]. We can also look at the December 2016 report done by the National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy & Technology, ‘Environmental Protection Belongs to the Public – A Vision for Citizen Science at EPA’.

Where Do We Go Now?

If we take away one lesson from the politics of 2016, it should be this: a Democracy is doomed to fail, where the people are not actively engaged in the decision-making process. We cannot expect to achieve the ideals we want and need as a nation (or as a small, local community), if people do not participate. We cannot be distracted; we cannot be lazy; we must guard against the manipulation of voting data and other forms of election fraud; and, we must not allow the selective disenfranchisement that is happening due to ‘the new Jim Crow’ discriminatory laws. Similarly, we cannot expect to benefit from the sound application of science where many of our elected leaders are collaborating with lobbyists seeking to discredit science; climate change denialism is a good example of this failure.

With that in mind, there is a glimmer of hope for the new administration. The GOP has championed de-federalization and expanded LOCAL authority in all matters. Thus, it is conceivable that we may be surprised; Trump, Ryan, McConnell and others may shrewdly use aviation as an example, demonstrating how to reduce bureaucracy, save money and localize control while de-federalizing the authorities that FAA has increasingly abused.

‘In Pursuit of Silence’ – a documentary film

A meditative film by Patrick Shen, ‘In Pursuit of Silence’ will resonate with many who are impacted by aviation noise. There is beauty in natural silence, and we need to structure our lives – including our air commerce – in ways that ensure each of us can benefit from as much natural silence as is possible. Here’s an embed of a movie trailer:

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

(click on image to view source Tweet)

(click on image to view source Tweet)

The ‘All in the Mind’ Podcast on Aircraft Noise & Mental Health

(click on image to listen to source podcast)

A screencap showing recent tweets related to ‘aircraft noise and mental health’ (click on image to listen to source podcast)

QUOTE

“…It actually blights your home. It’s the intrusion, principally, it’s the disturbance that it causes to your life and your well-being, and it’s difficult to relax. We’re on edge subconsciously, to some extent. There’s an anticipatory element to it, when you didn’t know quite when they were going to stop or when they were going to start again. And you then find out that you’re actually powerless…..”

– a comment by a UK aviation noise victim, during the radio interview

BBC’s radio show, ‘All in The Mind’, hosted by Claudia Hammonds, recently included an excellent presentation on the mental health impacts of aircraft noise. A few hours was spent creating a transcription, posted below:

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

For people impacted by aviation noise, the damage is more than doubled when the ‘system’ discounts their complaints and attacks each noise victim with a ‘gee, what is the matter with YOU?’ stance. Thus, science confirming noise impact concerns is validating to noise victims, even liberating.

Today’s FAA is completely failing to ‘balance’ airline/industry profits with community livability. FAA became coopted years ago; this failed regulatory agency is ‘all in for Aviation Commerce’.

What we clearly need, in the UK and in the U.S., is to have this balance restored. Here in the U.S., a good first step would be to waste no more time and take away from FAA the oversight responsibility for aviation noise impacts. We need to restore EPA’s Office of Noise Abatement and Control (ONAC), which was abruptly defunded in early 1981.


See also:

Mental Health and Aircraft Noise: Frankly, Who Gives a Damn?

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Here’s a screen-cap of a tweet, linked to a thoughtful article about how aviation noise undermines mental health…

(click on image to view article at HACA,org.uk, or click here for a PDF copy)

(click on image to view article at HACAN,org.uk, or click here for a PDF copy), or click here for the original tweet.

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:

Strawberry Waffles, With a Side of Helicopter Spray

Sunny Sunday mornings in Springtime. 20160403.. Strawberries-Waffles-Cream (source - strawberrysue.com)For me, growing up in the 1960s in a comfortable middle class family, the most memorable Spring Sundays included dressing up in our best, sitting through a church service, and coming out to a sunny morning hearing birds chirping, then heading home to have waffles for breakfast. These were special occasions. Sometimes we would even have strawberries on our waffles, but usually only in the last weeks of Spring. They were always local strawberries – Hood and Totem and Shuksan varieties – because fifty years ago we were not into megafarms producing megacrops and shipping them around the world in airplanes. Nor had we engineered less flavorful (more shippable) varieties that produce year-round.

20160403.. helo spraying grapes

(a typical ag spray operation, this one over grapes)

Many of the local crops were organic, raised by small farm families. This kept costs down, too. In stark contrast, today’s model for strawberry farming has become extremely fossil fuel intensive. Part of what makes today’s model for strawberry farming ‘work’ is the use of helicopters to do the spray applications, to protect huge monocropped areas from becoming total losses. Spray residues do typically persist on the strawberries we eat.

Another fossil fuel intensive aspect of today’s model for strawberry farming is ‘globalized’ crop marketing – including loading crops onto cargo planes or into the belly of passenger planes. Fresh produce from Chile thus graces the tables of Minnesota, even in the dead of winter. This is a luxury, in that past generations thrived (and were physically healthier!) without it. And, globalized food is a luxury with substantial environmental costs, that we are all encouraged to ignore.

And then there is the safety aspect of using helicopters to apply spray. Every year in the U.S., there are dozens of crashes involving ag operators, and some are fatal. Most fatal ag accidents are fixed wing, but many are helicopters. Blame gravity. Helicopters fall like a rock if there is an unexpected power loss; if they impact hard, the fuel tanks rupture, spray and ignite (…and the problem persists because FAA has for decades resisted/delayed mandating stronger/safer fuel tank systems, to minimize costs for manufacturers and operators). For safety, a falling helicopter needs to either hit the ground with lots of forward velocity to ‘skid to a stop’, or it needs to be high enough to allow the pilot to dampen the vertical impact speed by performing an autorotation. Thus, for each helicopter design, there is a height-velocity diagram that specifies which combinations of height-above-ground and speed are considered safe. A typical height-velocity diagram, such as this one for the Bell 206, dictates the serious risks of using helicopters in ag operations such as air-drying cherries, slinging Christmas trees, spraying grapes, etc.

Today’s farming relies heavily on helicopter spraying, and FAA continues to make no safety regulations to protect a growing list of fatalities. In fact, in the June-August window of 2015, there were six fatal ag operator crashes, including a Bell 47 helicopter crash while spraying in the Salinas, CA area on 6/20/2015. [NOTE: fatal ag helicopter crashes also occurred on 1/2/2013, 2/18/2013, 12/6/2013, 7/23/2014, 8/10/2014, and 8/12/2014]

(click on image to view 4-minute video about a California farmer who went organic)

(click on image to view 4-minute video about a California farmer who went organic)

At a time when climate change is pressing toward an ice-free Arctic and oceans are rising due to polar ice melt, it makes no sense to continue with ‘globalized’ crop marketing strategies. But, we continue nonetheless, likely because the widespread environmental ‘costs’ of this model are not balanced against the narrow ‘benefits’ that accrue to corporations.

Some people are concerned about this, but they are routinely finding the elected officials who could pass laws to re-balance the field (such as to favor local food production) are nearly all bought up and in-service to the corporate interests.

And so, in 2016, a sunny Sunday morning may include a marketed fast-food McWaffle with frankenberries brought to us by the likes of Monsanto. If we mindfully give no thought to this, we can still smile while we eat, ignoring the obvious: we are killing our one planet, and just the same, we are slowly killing ourselves.Marble on Green