Azara Blog: Yet another article complaining about air travel

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Date published: 2007/06/11

The BBC says:

If you want to know how the low-cost airlines have revolutionised the world of travel you need to go to Stansted airport.

Ninety per cent of flights from here are with low-cost carriers - 23 million people passed through here last year.
It is partly due to the growth in low-cost air travel, not just here but all around the world that carbon emissions from aircraft have risen by 111% in the past 15 years.

"There are major consequences for the ever-increasing use of low-cost airlines" said James Abbot, from the Green Party in Essex.

"These include expanding airports, less countryside, more road traffic and of course it is adding to climate change"

The Bishop of London has reportedly said flying was a sin.

His colleague, the Right Reverend Tony Footit, former Bishop of Lynn and now environmental advisor to the Diocese of Norwich, has said we all need to think much more carefully about travel.

"I think it is immoral to fly within the United Kingdom or Western Europe when it perfectly possible to travel by train but it seems perfectly reasonable to fly to the United States or far east but we ought to really ration it and ask if the trip is really necessary," he said.

Although aircraft emissions are rising it is worth keeping this debate in perspective.

According to Defra, aircraft emissions accounted for only 6.3% of all carbon emissions in Britain last year.
Even if low cost air travel continues unchecked, aircraft will still only account for a very small percentage of carbon emissions.

But critics said it is an unnecessary increase at a time when we should be doing everything possible to stave off climate change.

And they argue that if we care about climate change we have a moral duty to think very carefully about everything we do - and that includes flying.

The BBC runs this kind of article every month or two. The academic middle class (e.g. the people who run the BBC) do not like the fact that the peasants can now fly, whereas once upon a time only the middle class (and above) could.

One should take anything said by any bishop with a pinch of salt. If anything is a sin, organised religion is. And you can bet your least pound that bishops on average fly far more than the average UK citizen (since they are far richer than the average UK citizen). The claim that flying to some destinations is "immoral" but to others is not, is also just silly. As with everything in life, there is the time of travel to be considered. To get from (say) Newcastle to (say) Amsterdam by train takes far too long compared with air (and indeed, because the route is so indirect, the train is probably not even much better in terms of emissions). Perhaps bishops, like the rest of the academic middle class, have no time constraints, but back in the real world most people do.

And the Green Party makes the usual disingenous comments. Air flight is much better than trains in terms of the amount of loss of countryside, because you only need a few square miles in a few dozen spots to be able to get from anywhere to anywhere, whereas you need thousands of miles of train track to do the same. And similarly, the view that road traffic is seriously impacted by airline travel is pathetic. It is far more impacted by train travel, specifically London commuters driving to their local train station. And everything adds to climate change, so presumably the Green Party just wants the world to stop.

And funnily enough, the idea that "we have a moral duty to think very carefully about everything we do" only ever seems to apply to car driving and flying. It never applies, for example, to getting to work by train. Even more seriously, it never applies to having children, which is by far and away the worst damage to the environment that anyone can cause. Somehow the so-called environmentalists never bring this up, perhaps because they are busy breeding just like everybody else.

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