Current Heatwave Too Hot: Causing Commercial Flight Cancellations

A pair of articles look at the start of Summer and the forecast heatwaves. The first article actually notes that the Bombardier CRJ may not safely operate above 118 degrees Fahrenheit; this common regional feeder, used by American, thus has to be grounded at their Phoenix hub.

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

Aviation is thoroughly dependent on fossil fuel consumption, and is the fastest way that each of us can contribute to record-level (and still growing) atmospheric CO2 concentrations. And, importantly, hubs greatly increase fuel consumption, because more passengers fly longer distances when transferring at hub airports not on the direct route of flight.

(click on image to view source)

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)

A Closer Look at Massport’s Latest News Release

Here’s a good example of a typical news release by an airport authority: long on emphasizing ‘positives’, while totally ignoring impacts and other ‘negatives’.

Due to a runway closure for maintenance work, some residents in Randolph, Quincy, Milton, and Dorchester have seen a few weeks of temporary relief from the NextGen-related approaches to runways 4L and 4R. Their short reprieve will end soon. Of course, at any hub airport, where one or two airlines schedule lots of extra flights to sort out passengers who never even leave the terminal (as do JetBlue and American, the two main airlines hubbing at Logan), relief for one community becomes intensified hell for another community; the too-many-flights just get shifted elsewhere. See this local news article about Medford, Somerville, and Malden.

The airport authority for Boston Logan [KBOS] is Massport. They sent out an email, updating everyone (see archived PDF copy, below). Reading this as an impacted citizen, you may have these thoughts/questions:

  1. Tom Glynn declares, “Safety is Massport’s top priority,” but is this just a platitude/mantra? Would reducing the hourly operations level enhance safety, while also potentially eliminating all flight delays?
  2. Glynn also states, “We appreciate the patience of our neighboring communities and the travelling public as flight patterns have changed….” Would a reduced flight schedule not only improve safety and reduce delays, but also bring relief to the thousands impacted by repetitive flights that are low and slow and loud?
  3. The projects are called routine and essential for safety. Again, is safety enhanced by managing capacity, such as by imposing restrictions on hourly arrivals that ensure all arrivals are as direct as possible via routes critically designed to minimize community impacts?
  4. A portion of the project is to replace a wooden pier with a concrete pier that is designed to last 75 years. But, will the airport face closure even sooner, due to global sea-rise?

This last point deserves some elaboration. All KBOS runways are close to mean sea level (MSL), with lowest points ranging from 14-feet to 19-feet above MSL. Atmospheric CO2 is increasing at rates that are astonishing, when compared with billions of years of Earth geological history. Polar ice is disappearing (feeding more water into the oceans and atmosphere), oceans are warming (thus the water is expanding), and storms are getting stronger (accelerating erosion, especially at locations that are built on old landfills and estuaries, like Logan). All of this climate change is a result of excessive fossil fuel consumption (our insane carbon addiction, as a society, intensifying after WWII), and aviation remains the fastest way to consume fossil fuels … often for arbitrary purposes, such as air vacations and air freight. So, if FAA and airport authorities continue to refuse to manage airport capacity, their failure enhances the aviation impact on climate change.

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

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.

Trump, Climate Change, and ATC Privatization

It was not surprising to see President Trump pull out of the Paris Agreement last week. Nor was it surprising to see how he bumbled his way through the process. This is the stuff that inspires confidence in U.S. leadership (NOT!!).

The analysis done by John Oliver is brilliant. Here is an embed of the video. He does quite a bit to explain the carbon dioxide issue, the Paris Agreement, and what is so boneheaded about what our president just did. Check it out.

Now, that was last week. What’s in store for this week? Though Comey is set to testify later in the week, we are all supposed to be watching Trump and airline CEOs ‘trumpet’ the virtues of privatizing ATC. Great idea, no? I mean, just go ahead and let the airlines dominate ATC and what could possibly go wrong?

  • Would we do better to ensure airport hub expansions are balanced with residential quality of life and health concerns? NO
  • Will local communities become more empowered to ensure their local airport best serves the needs of their local residents? NO
  • Will the airlines allow an aviation carbon-tax to follow, so that aviation’s growing contribution to the climate change problem becomes moderated? NO
  • Will airline industry CEOs take advantage of their increased power to rent-seek, sucking more money out of passengers to spend on their pet projects? YES

Nothing will happen that diminishes industry profits. Oligarchy/Corporatocracy is our stark reality today. Trump and his buddies have money to make; to hell with the future planet our grandchildren inherit.

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)

Heathrow Airport Pays Guardian to Create ‘News Content’

20170110scp-about-explanation-of-paid-content-produced-by-guardian-labs-theguardian-comOne of the more disgusting details from the U.S. elections this past year was seeing the death of the journalism profession. We learned how the mainstream media no longer does hard research, no longer asks tough questions, but instead exists only to collect money for delivering spin and propaganda services. Not just for companies, but also for political parties. Evidently, propaganda going mainstream is a problem in the UK, too.

Here’s a copy of a tweet by BackOffHeathrow, a longstanding and vocal opponent of Heathrow airport expansion. Just like is happening under NextGen routes near a few major U.S. airports, the people who live east and west of Heathrow’s two runways are having their homes and lives destroyed. Same impacts, too: stress and distraction by repetitive noise interruptions, and compromised health due to elevated air pollutants and chronic sleep loss.

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(click on image to view archived copy of this ‘paid content’)

Why so much misery and destruction? Primarily to accommodate air travel by airline passengers from North America, Asia, and Europe. Many people use Heathrow as an entry-exit point for Europe; many of them pass through Heathrow because the major airlines decided decades ago that they would use this piece of land for sorting their passengers and maximizing their company profits. By far, the biggest airline at Heathrow is British Airways (BAW, Speedbird). Airline profits are improving, while resident quality of life is steadily declining. No wonder so many people are fighting so hard to stop a third runway at Heathrow.

The Airport Paid For This (with your money)…

Notice who paid for this item that looks like a ‘news article’, which is one of a series of ‘paid content’ by the Guardian Labs team. Yes, Heathrow, the airport authority. Where do they get money to buy these services? From the passengers who fly through Heathrow. The airport authority, just like the regulator, can skim money off of the process, and evidently has no accountability or restrictions to preempt using that money beyond what is needed to operate the airport. In this example, they use that money to promote the airport’s expansion, and in opposition to the anti-expansion efforts by impacted airport neighbors seeking sleep and other relief. They use that money to create paid content, aka ‘Fake News’.

…And it is Nothing but Spin and Propaganda

This is a full-fledged program. On the upper left of the webpage it says, ‘Heathrow sustainable mobility zone’. Click on this and it opens up a whole new webpage with many more ‘articles’.

Take a close look at the article title: ‘How Air Traffic Controllers are Helping Clean Up Aviation Emissions’. The spin implies new technologies are being used to reduce the environmental impacts of aviation. It is spin partly because the methods listed in the ‘article’ for reducing impacts are nothing new … techniques and technologies that have already been used for decades. But, more critically, the spin flies right past the real elephant in the room: that for each of us, when it comes to generating CO2, hours spent travelling as a commercial air passenger are the worst hours in our life. Frankly, the only way for one individual to do more damage to the atmosphere, more quickly, is either to take up a new hobby setting arson fires, or have too much money to blow and start zipping about in your own private jet.

Obviously, if the aviation stakeholders here (the regulators and airport authorities and airlines) REALLY wanted to reduce aviation emissions, they would do five things:

  1. the regulator would reduce Heathrow arrival rates, and the airlines would agree to alter their schedules accordingly, so that the four holding stacks for Heathrow arrivals, as discussed in the ‘article’,  would never even be needed again;
  2. they would get the airlines to do a much better job filling the seats on their flights (the passenger load factor for British Airways, is barely above 80%, an absurdly low rate of seat occupancy that greatly increases the per passenger carbon emissions);
  3. they would agree to impose uniform fees that disincentivize use of Heathrow as a hub airport, while also encouraging airlines to fly a larger percentage of their passengers on nonstop-direct flights to their final destinations (for example, impose a steep fee for flying through, or impose fees that are directly proportional to the itinerary distance flown);
  4. they would advocate for imposition of a heavy aviation carbon tax (which should also replace most other aviation fees and taxes) so as to disincentivize hub connections that are not efficiently located along the direct route of flight; and,
  5. they would immediately abandon the third runway at Heathrow — this additional runway, and the industry that profits from it, are just further bad investment to accelerate the fossil fuel destruction of our planet.

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!

‘Fly Now, Grieve Later’ – a Report About Aviation’s Climate Change Impact (47p)

QUOTE

“…Most senior members of the aviation industry do not refute the need to cut emissions, but seek to persuade governments that air travel should be given special treatment….”

– Brendon Sewill, in Chapter One of ‘Fly Now, Grieve Later’

Click here to read the original blog post, or here for an archived PDF copy.


See also:

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.

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

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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.