A Spin-Story by National Geographic?

In the blog ‘Flying Less: Reducing Academia’s Carbon Footprint’, Parke Wilde has written a deep analysis of a recent National Geographic ‘article’. The article, by Eric Rosen, generally looks at how commercial passenger aviation is growing in Asia. Mr. Wilde found parts of the article implausible, especially where aviation was presented as an increasingly ‘green’ industry. So, he researched and wrote a blog post. He also asked National Geographic to explain how they appear to be failing their traditional high journalistic standards; the magazine officials did not reply.

The bottom line on air travel is this: there is nothing else you can do that has a higher carbon impact per hour. The industry and the faux-regulators are working hard to propagandize, but they cannot get away from this harsh reality. Carbon offsetting schemes and alternative fuels are NOT a solution; the are illusion.

If you must travel, minimize it. Each mile you fly translates to a substantial consumption of fossil fuels, and thus a substantial creation of more atmospheric CO2. If your credit cards and the airlines and the mainstream media are trying to convince you to fly more, well, that tells you the best strategy is to fly less.

Click here for an archived PDF copy of the analysis. Also, you can read more about FlyingLess at the blog or at twitter.


See also:
  • PETITION: Fly Less – an aiREFORM Post about Parke Wilde’s petition, calling for universities and professional associations to reduce flying, since flying contributes significantly to global climate change. (11/2/2015)

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.

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.

U.S. Aviation Impact Activists Can Learn a Lot by Looking at London’s Gatwick Hub

One of the oldest activist groups fighting to manage aviation impacts and preserve their local community is the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC.org.uk).  This group has been around since 1968. The website for GACC.org.uk is impressive, and well worth a look … especially for anyone near a U.S. airport searching for ways to reduce hub-related NextGen impacts.

A significant detail about Gatwick is that this airport operates using a single runway; thus, it’s closest stateside equivalent would be the San Diego International Airport [KSAN].

Gatwick is the second-busiest airport in the UK, behind Heathrow. And, as discussed in an earlier aiREFORM Post about Heathrow, the traffic intensity is amplified by airline hubbing, nearly all related to international and transatlantic flights. Management of environmental impacts is made worse by the fact that both Gatwick and Heathrow have been ‘privatized’, in schemes where private equity firms and other financial interests acquire the airports. This is problematic because it appears to further insulate all the stakeholders (airlines, airport authorities, and national regulators) from accountability, as they can now hide behind the idea that ‘investors abroad must be protected’. And so it is that in the UK, too, schemes such as the narrow repetitive NextGen-related routes are destroying neighborhoods while enhancing airline profits. [NOTE: the European equivalent of FAA’s ‘NextGen’ program is SESAR, which stands for Single European Sky ATM Research; click here to view a copy of the 152-page SESAR plan dated 3/30/2009, or click here to read a comparison of NextGen & SESAR in a 10/18/2011 presentation]

A frequent argument against expansion of both Gatwick [EGKK] and Heathrow [EGLL] is that the addition of any new runway(s) will only exacerbate a pre-existing economic disparity across regions of the UK. The conflict is between the ‘north’ and the ‘southeast’. Specifically, because the two largest UK airports are in the southeast, the potential job and economic benefits that airports allegedly create are not shared with regions to the north. Effectively, aviation is a parasitic form of economic development, advantaging one region while disadvantaging another region.

This is a problem in the U.S., too. That is to say, for every superHub airport being expanded even further beyond manageable traffic levels ([KATL], [KCLT], [KORD] are three examples), there are numerous other airports in decline, with billions in development costs going unused. All it takes is for the dominant airline to abandon a hub and, within a few years, the entire airport begins to look like an unmarketable brownfield. In the U.S., the most notable examples include: United at Cleveland [KCLE], American at St. Louis [KSTL], USAir at Pittsburgh [KPIT], and Delta at Cincinnati [KCVG] or Detroit [KDTW].

It is notable that aviation regulators such as FAA and NATS have a huge opportunity to resolve these problems. All it takes is the establishment of sound national policies that disincentivize hub overdevelopment. A more evenly distributed aviation system, imposed in the U.S. or UK (or both!), would yield these three substantial benefits:

  1. it would broaden dispersal of economic benefits;
  2. it would reduce and even eliminate noise and pollutant impacts by repetitive flights; and…
  3. it would greatly improve the so-called ‘customer experience’ that airline CEOs and A4A are increasingly talking about; i.e., it would reduce or eliminate connection hassles while also reducing total flight times for passengers!

For an indexed compilation of some key Gatwick-related documents, as copied from the GACC website, please see page two of this Post:

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)

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?

ICAO Announces New CO2 Rules … Their Proposal is All Hype & Offers Little Meaningful Progress

In early December, world leaders met at COP21 in Paris to try and work out agreements to get our collective fossil fuel addiction under control. Conspicuously, two major transport modes were not even part of the debate: maritime and aviation. The COP21 leaders could have at least declared targets and ‘asked’ world aviation officials to aim at meeting these targets. Instead, we were told, let’s let the U.N. group ICAO take care of creating their own targets. Sort of like letting the foxes define the daily predation rate at the local henhouse.

ICAO has now delivered, and the product is underwhelming. Here is their Press Release link, as well as a copy of a New York Times article, with highlights (and footnoted analysis) added by aiREFORM.com:

This pop-out view is scrollable, and the PDF copy may be downloaded.

As noted in the aiREFORM footnotes to the New York Times article, this ‘agreement’ by a large group of people who generate profits by burning fossil fuels to move people and cargo… well, it’s all hype. The net positive improvement is frankly insignificant, yet all the official cheerleaders (including the White House and FAA’s Michael Huerta) are announcing this as a great achievement. It is not.

As further emphasis of the fraudulent cheerleading, read the statement within the News Release by GAMA, the General Aviation Manufacturing Association. Their headline was ‘Business aviation hails historic global agreement on CO2 standard for aircraft’, but within, note that small business jets are exempted from the new standards. This means that the most intensive CO2 generators – private jets with few passengers, flown on business trips and golfing junkets – are not even covered in this proposed agreement. No wonder people like GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce are smiling during this PR moment.

A short film by Germanwatch.org, about carbon-intensive living in Germany. Strong points made, especially at the finish.

Click on image to watch a short film about climate injustice and carbon-intensive living by some Germans. Strong points made, especially at the finish. (Germanwatch.org)

If our Congress (and FAA) wanted to do something truly ‘Transformational’, they would focus efforts on imposing a substantial aviation carbon tax, and disincenvitizing energy-wasteful airline hubs – hubs that simply have grown to be ‘too big to fly straight’.

 

Aviation Emissions were Not Part of the COP21 Negotiations

COP21, the international negotiations in Paris, aimed at bringing nations together to minimize the potentially dangerous impacts of anthropogenic climate change, closed one week ago. There has now been enough time for the details of the agreement to be assessed. One early publication is a simple infographic by euractiv.com. Here is a screen-capture of the last panel in their infographic:

(click on image to view full infographic at online source, euractiv.com)

(click on image to view full infographic at online source, euractiv.com)

The omission of the aviation sector is noted on the left side, and the attached yellow post-it has this comment: “International shipping and aviation emit as much as entire wealthy nations, but they’re not bound by the COP21 deal. These emissions won’t be covered by reductions being discussed at COP21, because they don’t happen within the boundaries of any specific countries. They’re also projected to rise dramatically by 2050.”

Since FAA and most other world aviation regulators are moving slowly (if at all?) on climate change, and since COP21 is trusting the industry will self-regulate, we need the aviation industry leaders to take charge. They need to work toward a steep carbon tax, and they need to discover ways to significantly improve their energy efficiency. Air travel is better than it was in the gas-guzzling days when jet travel began, but air travel remains as the fastest way for a human being to create CO2.

If aviation industry leaders do not act promptly, they very soon may be looking at substantially scaling back their industry. Perhaps even within a decade. It would not be surprising to see flying become a mode of travel used only out of extreme need; to see aviation vacations become a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ event.