Talk about Newsnight

Ethical Man - Justin Rowlatt

Has flying been unfairly demonised?

  • Justin Rowlatt -
  • 25 May 07, 07:14 PM

Let me come clean: I love flying and I have done ever since I was a boy.

justinflying1.jpgIndeed, I still remember the day a friend of mine brought an impossibly exotic treasure into our primary school classroom. It was one of those plastic packets of miniature “travel essentials” from some now defunct airline – Pan American or BOAC.

I can’t remember exactly what it contained – nylon socks, an eye-shade and a perfumed face wipe in a foil wrap perhaps. That wasn’t the point. What made my friend’s little plastic package so fabulous was that it was proof that my friend had actually flown in a plane.

justinflying2.jpgIt was three years before I flew for the first time – a family holiday to Morocco when I was about 10. Of course I’ve flown hundreds of times since then – most recently on my Mission to Mumbai – but I still enjoy every flight.

My problem is that a year of carbon-counting as Ethical Man brought home just what an environmental disaster flying is – my family’s one trip to the Canaries last year created as much carbon as a year of driving our car.

That’s why I’ve posed my deliberately provocative question. I want to know if it is possible to fly with a clear conscience.

So here’s the good news: when you look at the numbers, modern jet aeroplanes are actually a very efficient form of transport.

Indeed, the jet engine is one of the most effective ways to convert the energy from fuel into thrust. The best jets are 37 per cent efficient. By contrast it seems modern petrol engines are around 25 per cent efficient while a finely tuned diesel will achieve, at best, 32 per cent efficiency.

justinflying3.jpgHow does that translate into actual fuel consumption? Take a look at some figures: my old car - a two litre petrol Saab 9-5 estate - uses 8.6 litres per 100km. The most efficient cars do better than that. The Toyota Prius, for example, is much more frugal. It uses 4.3 l/100km.

So what about aircraft? The average jet plane now uses around 4.8 l/100 km per passenger – just a little worse than a Prius with no passengers. But the manufacturers say that modern jets are much more efficient.

Airbus claims it makes the most efficient aeroplane currently flying, the A380. It says this behemoth uses just 2.9 l/ 100km per passenger. (Here’s the dull bit: that’s the fuel consumption when you assume a three class configuration operating at capacity with 525 passengers).

As far as I can tell the latest jumbos are similarly efficient – it is hard to be certain because the manufacturers do not publish comparable figures – but Boeing’s 747-8 uses 3.7 l/100kms per passenger when operating at 70 per cent of capacity. (Assuming it is configured to hold 470 passengers in three classes).

So if jet engines are more efficient than car engines why do they get such a bad rap?

One reason is pretty obvious - we use planes to travel extremely long distances. I covered 14,000 kilometres on my trip to Mumbai and that weekend in Jamaica racked up just over 15,000 kms. Each trip covered pretty much the same distance as the average British car driver travels in a year.

The other big problem is that planes release their pollutants high up in the atmosphere where they have an even stronger greenhouse effect. The process is known as radiative forcing. What radiative forcing means is that aircraft emissions are reckoned to be almost twice as damaging as emissions at ground level.

So, combine the distance you fly with the effect of radiative forcing you can see why environmentally conscious people get so worried by our appetite for air travel. You can do as I did - get rid of your car, switch to energy efficient bulbs, eat locally grown food - but take one holiday flight and you will wipe out all your careful carbon cuts.

So here’s the important question: is there anything that can make flying less environmentally damaging? The received wisdom is that there is no simple fix but I’m not so sure. Here are some thoughts – please tell me what you think.

My friend Omar - who featured in our original flying film – speculates that turboprop planes – a kind of hybrid between a propeller and a jet plane could be as much as a third more efficient on short journeys.

That huge saving isn’t because turboprops are inherently more efficient than jets. The reason is that much of the fuel used by jets on short journeys is to get them to the high altitudes where they are most efficient. Turboprops fly at lower altitudes which saves fuel and also reduces radiative forcing.

What I want to know is this: if Omar is right why don’t more airlines use turboprops?

And Omar reckons turboprops would be less efficient than jets on long-haul flights. But there is some good news here too. The aeroplane manufacturers say they are doing their very best to improve fuel efficiency. They say today’s aircraft are 70 per cent more efficient than those of 40 years ago and that more efficient planes are in development.

Boeing boasts that its new 787 will better the fuel efficiency of even the A380. It claims that fuel consumption (assuming a two class configuration and 90 per cent occupancy) could be as low as 2.4 litres per 100 km.

There are other ways to cut emissions. IATA, the International Air Transport Association, estimates that improving air traffic control could cut emissions by as much as 12 per cent. It claims that by straightening out air lanes it has already cut millions of tonnes of CO2.

And I’ve got a last suggestion that would massively increase aircraft efficiency in a stroke. It would be straightforward and cheap to implement and doesn’t rely on some untested new technology.

What is my innovation? Just get rid of first and business class.

Think about it. If you packed the A380 with economy seats it could hold 853 passengers. A back of the envelope calculation suggests this “economy” Airbus (operating at capacity) would use 1.9 litres per passenger per 100km. That’s pretty much half the fuel consumption of most current aircraft.

Of course flying in such an aircraft would still be a carbon intensive activity but considerably less so than current planes. That’s because the effect of radiative forcing means each tonne of carbon you don’t emit is the environmental equivalent of saving two tonnes.

In fact – here’s a thought – now that I’m not Ethical Man maybe that’s what I should do. An economy-only eco-airline, the green alternative!

What’s the telephone number of Airbus again?

Comments  Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 08:01 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Gordon wrote:

"is there anything that can make flying less environmentally damaging?"

Things that can make it less damaging? Yes - I suppose there are things, but at the end of the day the raw physics says if you want to fly to Australia and back you have to use a great amount of energy to do it - you can recycle as many tin cans as you want, but it will all be in vain.

Here is the real inconvenient truth that the recycling middle classes want to ignore at all costs - if you want to make an impact against climate change you can't take any jet flights - that is one fact that is ignored at almost all costs. Do as I say not as I do seems to be the motto.

  • 2.
  • At 08:01 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Nick wrote:

Maybe the question is "Is flying unfairly singled out" - why does taking flights raise more environmental eyebrows than licing in large detached houses which leak huge amounts of energy or leaving the lights on in office buildings?

  • 3.
  • At 08:06 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Matt wrote:

Absolutely! I know the eco friendly will say that the emissions of planes are worse as they're higher up, but, we live now in a global economy, countries will die from lack of investment from tourism. Wonder how much extra the first/business class people pay, whether they actually make it so coach class is affordable. Also, increased passenger numbers, how much would that affect the efficiency, increased load means increased consumption. Another problem however, is the lack of work being done on planes if we did get rid of business/first, would this be a problem for UK productivity? Might stop some of our lazy politicians from using expensive non-coach class travel as they'd have much reduced privacy which they're so desperate for! :-)

  • 4.
  • At 08:11 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Ed wrote:

Interesting thoughts, ethical man. Obviously the best solution is not fly, but if people are to fly..

1) Wouldn't it make more sense to just get rid of short haul flights altogether and replace them with high speed rail such as maglev?

2) In terms of long haul, surely a solution would be using larger planes, have less flights, less air traffic and utilise the extra efficiency that comes with them. Why have a 737 making 2 return trips to somewhere on the other side of Europe? Just get a plane twice the size and simply make 1 return trip and take the same number of people. Is having 1 flight instead of 2 to say Rome really that much of a hardship?

Presumably if you fly economy in the A380 you are effectively using the 1.9 litres per 100km and the people in first class are using considerably more. I shouldn't feel guilty in economy because someone in first is using a lot more space. So what you need to do is to stop people wanting to fly business and first. Good luck!

The same principle applies to a lot of other areas of life where richer people use a lot more resources and are thus responsible for more carbon emissions.

  • 6.
  • At 08:18 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Steve Taylor wrote:

Will it matter a toss ? If the UK stops emitting CO2 tomorrow, the INCREASE alone in Chinese emissions will take it up in 12 months.

Worry about that one.


  • 7.
  • At 08:23 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Mark Chisholm wrote:

I guess the future will be the ability of aircraft to burn fuel that does not have a significant effect on th enviroment. I'm sure that this will be achieved - just look at what has happened with refrigeration gas. Now we have legally binding alternatives that work.

  • 8.
  • At 08:26 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Chris Brown wrote:

If business class was done away with, I doubt if all of the space could be used due to the extra weight of passengers. Nice idea though. I never could afford anything other than cattle class!

  • 9.
  • At 08:27 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Peter (Northampton) wrote:

Funny but it's always Civil aviation that get's it in the neck. What about the Military, and VIP's and little business jets going on Golfing weekends?

What about the space industry? Every space shuttle launch probably equates to I don't know how many 747's.

But no, it's me...selfish me taking my family on holiday.

Sorry World I should have used the carbon neutral train. Oh let me go suck on an exhaust pipe.

  • 10.
  • At 08:33 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Manish wrote:

I think that talking about things that exist for a good reason (passenger flights) is a simple waste of time.

Why not target people who fly for fun. I used to live in Cyprus and every other day I could see British fighter planes trying to make a heart shape in air with their planes! It did not serve any purpose apart from some ego boosting fun.

  • 11.
  • At 08:35 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • DJ wrote:

All very interesting, but it misses a couple of key question. Why do we have to holiday in long-haul, exotic destinations at all? And why do so many businesses think they have to fly their staff all around the world on the slightest excuse?

People managed quite well until recently with holidays much closer to home, while global business actually functioned quite well in the days before mordern air travel. (And how did the British Empire manage to prosper without access to modern communications and transport?)

We Westerners live in a small, cushioned bubble of luxuries and instantly met desires. Air travel is just one of the baubles that keep us away from the harsh realities.

The only problem is that bubbles eventually burst. Where will ethical man be then?

  • 12.
  • At 08:35 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Malcolm Bowler wrote:

This article is deliberately misleading. If one assumes 3 passengers in the gas guzzling Saab the figure for fuel consumption comes down to 2.15l./100km.

I feel there is a bias that is showing here.

How to fly in an environmentally friendly way? Airships!

The technologies aren't all mature yet, but what is needed is an airship, powered by electricity generated by having the entire outer surface covered with solar cells, plus lightweight batteries for night operation. It's the batteries that still need development. Once we have those, then all air freight and a fair bit of air passenger traffic could go by airship instead of fixed-wing aircraft. Airships "float" by being filled with lighter-than-air gass such as helium, so no power is needed to provide lift, just to move forward through the air.

  • 14.
  • At 08:43 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Mike wrote:

All of this assumes that releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere causes global warming. Although this seems to be a modern mantra, the evidence I am aware of seems to demonstrate that CO2 levels rise as a result of increased heating by the sun, i.e. CO2 levels are a result of global temperature rises, not a cause of it. I still think excessive air travel is a bad idea, but because it involves the richest people on the earth using up all the energy resources whilst expecting poor nations not to develop a similar standard of living, because there aren't enough resources to go round. The only way to a fairer world is for people in the West to consume less, and stop relying on extremely cheap labour in undeveloped countries to provide extremely cheap goods in the West whilst maintaining the rest of the world in poverty, but this goes much wider than just avoiding the odd flight.

  • 15.
  • At 08:43 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Nicky wrote:

The way you approach your solution is deceiving. By packing more people onto the airplane you are not reducing the amount of CO2 released, you are reducing the figure per capita. Quite honestly per capita means nothing on an airplane or a car, you need to look at the big picture and your idea of packing more people onto the plain leads to an increase in weight which, believe it or not, leads to increased fuel consumption!
It may be more efficient, but it is not more environmentally friendly as there will always be people who want to fly business on long haul flights. If all airlines did what you suggest and cram the plane up, a smart guy would start up a new all business class airliner and it would balance out again.

  • 16.
  • At 08:43 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Mick wrote:

The problem is that people think that this just applies to everyone else. If everybody else flies less and takes fewer weekend flights to Prague etc etc then it will be OK for them to carry on as they are. People always seem to be able to justify their own flying by saying Oh we were too busy (i.e. too important) to drive or get the train or it's so much cheaper to go by EasyBmiAir so we went during term time, and so on. It's alright for them as long as everyone else doesn't do it.

  • 17.
  • At 08:45 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • C D Carter wrote:

I have just returned to the UK from NZ - which is the longest of long hauls and for which there is no practical substitute. The planes were pretty full.

I'm sure you're right about the fuel efficiency of current planes and even better economies to come.

But our planet doesn't care about the fuel economy in any given aeroplane on any particular flight. Planet earth may be endangered only by the *total* amount of emissions.

The effect of these highly efficient planes will be to lower the cost of flying in relative terms and possibly even in absolute terms - with the net effect of encouraging ever more people to use them.

Even if emissions per plane and/or per passenger drop, this may well be more than made up for, by more planes flying further and more often.

In these circumstances, governments may impose taxes to offset this.


  • 18.
  • At 08:47 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Peter Styles wrote:

Air travel is unfairly targeted in the quest for a 'green' approach. If we truly wanted to seriously reduce carbon emissions then we'd switch all power to nuclear, dam rivers, and everyone would have a wind turbines/solar panels on our roofs. It hasn't been done because we consider 'other factors'. Why when it comes to air travel are the other positive benefits ignored. Air travel has increased exponentially global integration increasing the exchange of ideas, tastes and understanding around the world. Sushi wasn't brought to the UK via the internet, regional development doesn't happen without an airport and how much more is achieved when great minds are in the one room rather than on other ends of the globe. Why would an ethical person want to restrict the opportunity of travel to the rich? The carbon cost of air travel can be reduced and should be reduced in ways that don't restrict it via cost and availability.

  • 19.
  • At 08:47 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Phil wrote:

Very good read, from ex ethical man. I sometimes feel that we are being brain washed by a movement that is akin to a religous cult, regarding the environment (particularly from the BBC). Great to read some simple facts for a change.

If you want a graphic illustration of the real reason for the Earths degredation, look at the human population explosion graph on Wikapedia - scary stuff!

  • 20.
  • At 08:48 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Alex wrote:

Are turboprops more efficient than jets? - yes. Why? - because the props move a larger volume of air backwards more slowly, leaving less wasted energy behind them as they fly through the air. Any movement you leave behind you in the air is wasted energy. The most efficient plane would be one which flew through 'solid' air, and could just push itself along without leaving any energy behind it in swirling eddies. Not very practical though.

In fact, modern 'jets' are actually turbofans, with very large propeller-like blades at the front of the engine behind that large cowling. They are still not quite as efficient as turboporps though, for the reason stated above. The bigger the diameter of the prop, the lower the speed you need it go around, and the less energy you leave swirling in air behind you as you fly along.

  • 21.
  • At 08:49 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Mark Trontom wrote:

I think getting rid of the car is far more environmentally friendly than not flying.

Car's don't just cause air pollution, they also cause noise pollution and decimate our wildlife (not to mention the thousands of deaths per year). I don't know of a single place in the whole of England where you can actually sit in peace without having to hear the constant hum, or worse, of distant road traffic. Try standing outside in your back garden right now, I bet the loudest noise comes from nearby roads!

  • 22.
  • At 08:51 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • John Gordon wrote:

Has no one figured it out yet? Global warming is just a natural part of a cyclical warming and cooling pattern. Let's face it the climate has been getting progressively warmer since the ice age. While lots of people have theories about climate change - nobody has PROOF.

care for your fellow man, help avoid needless wars and injustice, and treat yourself to a holiday where you want, if you can afford it and so long as it does not exploit others in society.

Unfortunately, the sums used here to calculate fuel efficiency omit one glaring fact; the airline calculations are based on litres per 100 PASSENGER kilometres. The figures for a car on the other hand are simply litres per 100km (note the lack of the word passenger). Thus a car with 2 occupants uses half the fuel per 100 passenger kilometres than a car with one occupant. A car with 4 occupants uses a quarter etc. Therefore even that old Saab only uses 2.15L/100 passenger Km when the whole family squeeze in. Now scale that up to a 50 seater bus...

"if you want to make an impact against climate change you can't take any jet flights"

Awesome, so when I move to Los Angeles next month I have to walk there?

"my family’s one trip to the Canaries last year created as much carbon as a year of driving our car"

For the entire aircraft, it actually works out to about 1.5 days driving per-person, assuming a 'smaller' aircraft. the 550 passenger aircraft example you gave is well under a days driving per-person.

So is it ethical to do that a few times a year? Sure it is.

If you feel really bad about it plant some trees or buy a milk float to replace the family car.

  • 25.
  • At 08:59 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Dozy B wrote:

If the average air flight uses 4.8L per 100km & my car uses 1.5L, then flying causes approximately 3X the pollution if I travel alone, or 6X if my wife & I fly on the same journey.
However, the pollution caused in making a car far exceeds the amount it will ever produce in its lifetime. Typically a car will last 7 years & a plane 21 years. So avoiding flying & travelling instead by car isn't really going to make much difference. A hybrid car won't help as modern hybrid cars are less recyclable than their traditionally built predecessors. A recent American study showed that the 4X4 Jeep Wrangler was far less polluting over its lifetime than a Toyota Prius after the pollution of manufacture & disposal was taken into account, in fact most cars outperformed the Prius in terms of overall pollution.
So, when you need to travel it seems that there's really little difference between the options available.
Perhaps the better question to ask is not "How will I travel?" but "Do I need to travel at all?" For example, why commute if you can work from home with a computer? That will also save the carbon footprint of your office space, and make you feel more virtuous (smug if you prefer) & able to justify the pollution of your annual holiday.

"Are turboprops more efficient than jets? - yes. Why? - because the props move a larger volume of air backwards more slowly, leaving less wasted energy behind them as they fly through the air."

Turboprops are just turbofans with a power turbine added at the back. They are way less efficient - allot of energy is wasted driving the PT discs.

  • 27.
  • At 09:01 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Dozy B wrote:

If the average air flight uses 4.8L per 100km & my car uses 1.5L, then flying causes approximately 3X the pollution if I travel alone, or 6X if my wife & I fly on the same journey.
However, the pollution caused in making a car far exceeds the amount it will ever produce in its lifetime. Typically a car will last 7 years & a plane 21 years. So avoiding flying & travelling instead by car isn't really going to make much difference. A hybrid car won't help as modern hybrid cars are less recyclable than their traditionally built predecessors. A recent American study showed that the 4X4 Jeep Wrangler was far less polluting over its lifetime than a Toyota Prius after the pollution of manufacture & disposal was taken into account, in fact most cars outperformed the Prius in terms of overall pollution.
So, when you need to travel it seems that there's really little difference between the options available.
Perhaps the better question to ask is not "How will I travel?" but "Do I need to travel at all?" For example, why commute if you can work from home with a computer? That will also save the carbon footprint of your office space, and make you feel more virtuous (smug if you prefer) & able to justify the pollution of your annual holiday.

  • 28.
  • At 09:03 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Jim Beam wrote:

Living on an island as the UK pretty much doesn't give you an option but to fly. Unless you have to be in France and you're able to take the tunnel there's pretty much no other less-fuel-consuming option.

Ferries are not mentioned in the article but are accounting for 4% of the CO2 emissions whilst commercial aviation only takes up 2%. And they're slow.

So the government should invest in high-speed trains to travel on UK mainland and ban flights from London to Newcastle, Manchester etc. Also, there wil have to be more tunnels to e.g. Amsterdam and Ireland with eco-friendlier high-speed trains like the one to France.

I'm fully convinced if people have a proper alternative to flying which is as quick as jetting around they will choose the eco-friendly one. As for long-haul flights; invest in the development of efficient jet-engines and fuels. This will have a positive impact on the environment, not levying 10 pound extra Airline Passneger Duty on short-haul flights to cover up a governmental budget gap.

  • 29.
  • At 09:06 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Gareth Semple wrote:

Never mind the air travel. Most of what we recycle in the UK, doesn't get recycled in the UK. It ends up on a container ship; and transported half way around the globe to china (as the UK has no large scale recycling plants to cope with the high volume of recycling). Very eco friendly and cost effective!!!!!!........another one the recyling fundamentalists omit to mention.

I work as an airline pilot, and the fact is turboprop aircraft are in no way effecient. They fly at medium altitudes, and fly MUCH MUCH slower than jets, and therefore take MUCH MUCH longer to get to their destination. Plus they have to divert through all the weather, that they fly through at those medium altitudes that jets are able to fly over. Which is why they are used on short haul domestic routes.

At the end of the day - the harsh reality of it is - flying is a money making commodity. If there is money to be made in flying (and money to be saved by those that fly), it will continue. Just ask Sir Branson next time he's on TV delivering another - we care about greener fuel PR speeches ;)

  • 30.
  • At 09:07 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • OM wrote:

I have to travel for work every month between london and europe. There and back. I hate that it costs the environment but don't really have any options. The flights cost between £60-150 return on a jet. If I want to take a turbo-prop plane double that and add a stop over.

I would really like to take the train - I don't even mind the 24hour travel but it costs... £450-600.

Surely what we need now is easyTrain?

(I do at least offset - I know it's not the same)

  • 31.
  • At 09:07 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Dan wrote:

Much of the fuel used on long haul flights is burned because of the added weight of the fuel carried on the aircraft to facilitate non-stop 13 hour flights. How about forcing operators to incorporate stopovers and charge a premium for less environmentally friendly non stop long haul flights??

  • 32.
  • At 09:08 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Fraser Mitchell wrote:

The reason the operators like jet planes rather than turboprops is because they are faster, 500 rather than 350 Knots per hour meaning that fewer planes are needed to provide the service, and planes are very expensive items of kit. This applies to all transport not just aeroplanes, and the effect of slowing the transport mode down was recently seen with the Hatfield accident on the railways when a 40 mph limit was imposed over all main lines. The service was thrown into chaos because the trains were so slow they took too long to travel the distance in enough time to provide the return working. At 40 mph double the number of trains were needed for the service.

Obviously these were not available so the service was cut in half instead. Speed does have its advantages, although no politician or even economist seems to understand this. The effect is the same with road transport as well, which has to be one reason why we are such a high-price economy.

  • 33.
  • At 09:13 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • AH wrote:

I have to say it winds me up that we get taxed almost to death on petrol, but then getting a plane from one end of the country is cheaper than taking the "greener" train. Why not have a system that allows these things to be balanced out? For instance, if I don't fly anywhere during the year, I get a rebate on all the fuel tax I've payed for my car? That would allow people to take the decisions for themselves, pay appropriately for their personal pollution, and, most importantly, put money in my bank account!

By the way, Manish: a military pilot needs to be able to move his aircraft exactly where he wants to go. Making heart shapes might not have any direct combat value, but such aerobatics are a good way to hone flying skills. Come to think of it, ego-boosting fun is also important of itself - fighter pilots need to be confident and motivated!

  • 34.
  • At 09:14 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Peter (Northampton) wrote:

Scheduled flights are exactly that 'Scheduled'. The suggestion that a family not flying on holiday will cut down on carbon emissions is eco-stupidity.

A scheduled flight flies whether it's got 20 passengers or 200. Chances are the plane has to go to wherever to maintain a timetable and to keep the takeoff and landing slots at either airport.

Unless the plane can fly with fewer engines a 20 passenger flight will consume as much as 200 passengers, more if delayed when landing.

Trains are great, they don't go where you want to, they cost a fortune, they don't work on bank Holidays and everybody on this planet seems to forget that the entire rail network is electrified (not just when trains are passing by) all the points, lights, nasty ticket machines...etc consume a lot of electricty which we make by burning fossil fuels because we don't like Nuclear power (for some very good reasons).

The alternatives to flight are nowhere near as environmentally friendly as some would have us believe...and ships aren't much better because by the time you arrive at your destination you've gotta leave (probably by plane).

  • 35.
  • At 09:14 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • jon wrote:

The creation of Gatwick Airport caused misery to thousands of people who lived in the area, and the commercial activity it created destroyed hundreds of square miles of countryside. Why should I be unable to record our nearby nightingales so that lager louts can can be airlifted to another country every year?

  • 36.
  • At 09:14 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Tony Mason wrote:

We can all go on about global warming, energy use, etc., but we really don't have an energy problem, we have a numbers problem - there are just too many of us and too many being kept alive. Once we stop overpopulating, we will be able to take care of the energy problems, etc.

Your analysis is rather misleading. The problem with flying is that it emits so much carbon dioxide that it's simply unsustainable.

We need to bring our emissions down to around 1–2 tonnes CO2e (equivalent mass of carbon dioxide) if we want to stabilise global warming, but thanks in part to the huge distances covered and in part to the high altitude at which the exhaust gases are released, even a fairly short-haul flight can use up your entire year's sustainable carbon budget. A return flight to Australia, the worst-case scenario, can cost 10 tonnes CO2e—so you'd have to not use any energy at all for 5–10 years to offset that level of emissions, which is totally unfeasible.

Flying is unethical. Simple as.

  • 38.
  • At 09:19 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Andy wrote:

"If you packed the A380 with economy seats it could hold 853 passengers. A back of the envelope calculation suggests this “economy” Airbus (operating at capacity) would use 1.9 litres per passenger per 100km."

Um, yes.. but as (in your ideal situation) there would be 300 more passengers per flight......... you didn't finish the calculation!

  • 39.
  • At 09:19 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Mark Gee wrote:

'Your' figures neglect to look at cargo.

It is not always correct to divide up the fuel usage by the number of possble or actual passengers to calculate your impact.

Many flights also carry cargo not belonging to the passengers.

Bottom Line: It's a pointless discussion. ALL THE OIL WILL BE USED UP. If we use it more efficiently it will just last longer.

  • 40.
  • At 09:28 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Will James wrote:

The facts are that civil aviation only produces 2% of world CO2 emissions. Even at projected growth rates it will only reach 3% by 2050. If we are serious about reducing CO2 we should target the largest producers which are power stations and cars. Nuclear power produces minimal CO2 - Greenpeace cant have it both ways. Reducing max speed to 50mph would about half motorway CO2.

  • 41.
  • At 09:29 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Peter (Northampton) wrote:

More tunnels and high speed trains are great however, the construction generates tons and tons of greenhouse gasses due to the prolific use of conrete in tunnel production and the build times and costs are prohibitive.

Strategically if a train crashes or there's a tunnel disaster you've got a minimum of a couple weeks of disrupted service.

If a runway's closed the airports probably got others. If a plane crashes other flight continue

  • 42.
  • At 09:31 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Carl Douglas wrote:

It is a cop-out for us to blame China for her emissions.

Our playing at environmental sensitivity, controls on recycling, etc., has killed much of UK manufacturing industry. Yet each year we consume ever more in manufactured goods. So those goods are now made in China, where environmental controls are minimal and industrial health & safety is a bad joke.

When we discard our part-used toys, because we are too important to suffer the inconvenience of meaningful recycling they return to the far east - to be handled with minimal environmental or human health concern.

We puff ourselves up over environmental responsibility when in reality we behave as spoilt, irresponsible kids

In short, we use & abuse while demanding others reform.

  • 43.
  • At 09:31 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Jean Erasmus wrote:

Never in a fractal world will we find a single sollution to a problem, which is essentially multi-faceted, or fractal if you will.

Air Travel - business or pleasure - is an intricate human phenomenon which has pro's and con's; just like life itself. We as humans so easily fall into the nitty gritty details of a problem forgetting the entanglement everything has in our 'reality'. We need to stand back from it all, and look at air travel as only a small puzzle piece in Modern Civilization. Where has this whole problem of Global Climate Change strated; are we the soul purpetrators or only contributors to a million year glacial-interglacial cycle; how does stealth taxation fit into the whole media hype?

There are of course many more of these questions; questions in a world where reality is altered by the 'Puppeteers' in order to manipulate the masses in order to prey on them in their ignorance (read Plato's cave analogy).

But - there is a simple answer to business flying: High Speed Internet. With Holographic Virtual Conferencing, one can attend any meeting; attend any speech or give one for that matter, without being physically present. That will cut a lot of flying.

Think about that...

  • 44.
  • At 09:32 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Dave wrote:

How about the theory that the contrails in the upper atmosphere actually reflect more sunlight away from the planet than is trapped in by the greenhouse gases? There was an intriguing study done immediately after 9/11 when almost no aircraft were flying over North America, although it's inconclusive. See

  • 45.
  • At 09:34 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Nick wrote:

I fully agree with ethical man here, as an airline pilot and lifelong plane enthusiast, I do feel that air travel is getting an unfair bashing right now, and I'm not just saying that because I fly planes for a living. Boeing and large airlines are working hard to make their aircraft run on emissions-free fuel, but for the time being, kerosene is the only option for powering planes. So in order to cut down on emissions planes can be towed to the runway instead of wasting fuel taxiing. Also, the use of turboprops for short haul is a good idea. I'm surprised no-one's mentioned the emissions that cruise ships pump out though - very damaging!

  • 46.
  • At 09:36 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • durham wrote:

I'm uncomfortable with the comment about increased air passenger duty being for revenue-raising reasons. Assuming, as most of your correspondents seem to, that we generally don't want the Government to spend less (generally comments demand a better NHS, education, transport system), we have to pay for it in taxes. Surely it's better to raise the money in taxes that encourage more sustainable living than increase income tax or VAT?

  • 47.
  • At 09:39 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Paul wrote:

You can already reach Amsterdam, Berlin, Munich or Marseilles by train comfortably within one day with just one or two changes... with some more investment, adding Prague, Warsaw, Barcelona, Rome and other popular destinations to that list wouldn't be difficult.

Rail capacity does have limitations, but a pragmatic approach should cut down flights from the south of England to these destinations and build up the rail network.

Short haul is the most damaging and fastest growing problem, and the solution is that easy, no matter what the propaganda of the low-cost airlines is claiming.

  • 48.
  • At 09:42 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Nikhil Prasad wrote:

There are a few things thats just cant be helped. It might not be practical to not fly but that must not stop us from reducing carbon emission through other ways in our everyday lives.

The idea is to do as much as we can, after all every little bit counts.

  • 49.
  • At 09:43 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Alex Evans wrote:

Maybe there's another point to be made here; why fly in the first place?
Ok, I grant you a nice summer break in Asia or South America may be nice and feel well deserved, but does it hold any real purpose?
Fly when flying is necessary, not just 'because you can'.

  • 50.
  • At 09:45 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • John Anderson wrote:

Nice to read an article sticking up for my winged friends for a change! Well done Mr Ethical man.

Being a bit of a planespotter, I spend more time watching planes take off and land than flying in them. I can tell you that the ones of today are so much quiter and cleaner than the smokey old BAC 1-11s and 707s of my youth! Technology will probably overcome the problem of emissions in future. maybe the planes of tomorrow will be powered by electricity, batteries, fuel cells or simply, solar power.
So please, let's give planes a break!

  • 51.
  • At 09:47 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Michael Frost B Eng wrote:

Great article

As an engineer I am woundering ....

Based on a Saab caarying 5 passengers then that equates to 1.72 l/100km and using the same logic the Prius comes in at a fantastic 0.86 l/100km.

And finally - can you confim if the figures quoted on the efficiency of the jet engines in service are quoted as loaded, at altitude and normal operating speed. My understanding of jet engines is that the amount of fuel used in take off and landing is significantly higher; which would make there efficiency significantly less.......



  • 52.
  • At 09:48 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Daniel wrote:

May I suggest that if all you green BBC supporting lefties stop flying, not only will you be doing the planet a favour, but also the rest of the travelling public...

  • 53.
  • At 09:50 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Robert Baker wrote:

I'm travelling with my family of 4 to Corsica this summer, by trains and ferry. It isnt a cheap option, costing more than twice as much as flying, and yet the carbon emissions will be much less. If the costs reflected the environmental damage they would be reversed.
PS Has anyone else noticed that the self-styled green saviour Richard Branson is planning to develop mass tourism into space - just how much carbon emissions will that cause? And Tony Blair, the environmentally friendly PM, is planning to jet around the globe over the next few years spreading his Messianic messages. How about setting a personal example - isnt that what real leadership is about?

  • 54.
  • At 09:57 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Chris wrote:

The sad thing no-one has cottoned onto is that 89% of oil is burnt for fuel, but the majority of the remaining 11% is used on mass-production of pharmaceuticals.

When we no longer have oil to power our vehicles we also no longer have the raw material to produce medicines in bulk.

Why will that mean for humanity?

Mendeleev (the devisor of the periodic table) said in 1872 that oil was far too valuable a resource to be burned.

The next few decades may not be pretty.

  • 55.
  • At 09:57 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • DJ wrote:

Your friend Omar doesn't perhaps appreciate the finer details of propulsive efficiency. A turboprop offers a greater propulsive efficiency at lower cruising speeds, well below the speed of sound, turboprops can be more efficient over short haul journeys where only a short portion of the journey is spent at cruise speed.

However, above about Mach 0.5 (half the speed of sound) the efficiency of a turboprop drops significantly. Over a longer journey a higher cruise speed must be used and at these higher cruise speeds a modern turbofan engine is much more efficient than a turboprop. You may suggest travelling slower and using a turboprop, but you would take longer and so burn more fuel, and there are logistical issues of having to carry more fuel for longer (which itself leads to more fuel burn) etc. Not to mention the fact that people don't want to be in the air for twice as long.

Aircraft manufacturers spend a long time and undertake a great deal of calculations to work out the most efficient configuration for their aircraft as fuel efficiency is absolutely key to the profitability of any airliner, and hence their manufacturer.

  • 56.
  • At 09:59 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Will wrote:

An interesting question you ask there Ethical man, however I pose another. Is the focus on carbon emissions the right one? These days it seems there is a disproportionate amount of attention on this greenhouse gas. It only takes up .54 % of the atmosphere and the contributions of mankind versus nature (i.e. animals, woods and oceans)is very small indeed.

Therefore perhaps we should focus on dealing with changes in climate and how to be efficient with energy as a matter of refining our consumption needs. After all we haven't found any perpetual energy sources yet.

For more info on the subject look for the global warming swindle on google.

  • 57.
  • At 09:59 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Dennis Addey wrote:

I read the other day that Britains overall contribution to worldwide CO2 emissions is 3% overall. Of that 2% is from fuel burnt in our vehicles, cars and lorries etc.

Yes, that is 2% of the 3% ! Not 2 thirds of it.

This equates to 6/10000ths of the world's CO2 emissions.

The carbon footprint do gooders would have us scrap our 4x4s because they damage the planet. We have to get things in perspective. Even if we all cut our mileage by 50% then it would only save 3/10000ths of the worlds CO2 emissions.

A bit like urintating into a gale.

Never, ever forget that the world is full of people only too willing to tell you what to do.

The European Framework 7 research funding aims to produce eco friendly aircraft. There are lots of us working on lightweight materials, smart structures, morphing wings etc etc. Eco freindly aircraft are one of the most fascinating engineering problems we have yet been faced with and there are some brilliant people working on it. My own project is special kind of carbon fibre, welcome to Geeksville.

  • 59.
  • At 10:04 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Kenneth Baxter wrote:

i am glad that for once first class travel is getting a bashing as it is the most un eviromentally friendly travel going compared to cheap airlines like ryanair who fill up the planes with as many people as possible

  • 60.
  • At 10:11 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Robin B wrote:

Peter (Northampton) wrote:

"What about the space industry? Every space shuttle launch probably equates to I don't know how many 747's."

Rockets burn oxygen and hydrogen to form water.A common misconception popularised by the "green lobby" along with that old favorite that its all carbon monoxide coming out of all the "cooling towers" at power stations, no thats water vapour as well.

  • 61.
  • At 10:12 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Michael wrote:

There is one way that'd cut all engery usage in half at a stroke : halve the number of people in the world.

I am not suggesting genocide, war or
anything like that. Just that exercising some *voluntary* population control would help not create new armies of little consumers who will do more damage over their lifetime than your holiday flight. China's got a lot of bashing here but at least they're trying to not create loads and loads more people unchecked. How many other countries can put their hand up and say that?

Less babies born = less future energy use = less planet damage.

But tell that to most people and the attitude will be "yeah, but I don't care because I want one / two/ three anyway".

  • 62.
  • At 10:12 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Bob wrote:

Currently we don't have the technology to run planes on anything other than Kerosene.
On the other hand, heavy SUVs, cars with massive roofboxes, cars with oversized engines - how much of that is necessity and how much is vanity?

  • 63.
  • At 10:14 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Peter (Northampton) wrote:

We Humans are a strange beast.

In the not-so-distant past we were convinced the World was flat.

Towards the end of the 70's some were convinced we were heading for another ice age.

Now we're being convinced that we've caused Global Warming....because we obviously all collectively know that the Sun always burns at exactly the same rate 24/7, 365 for millions of years with no change.

Scientists are never wrong....which is why we all currently live on the Moon.

So in less than 30 years Mankind has used a technology just over 100 years old to change a planet....a planet which has been evolving (and still is) over millions of years.

It's not the Sun, it's not Earth's irregular orbit around the's us....but if the Sun had a slight fever, mild indegestion or a bad case of Solar Wind we wouldn't be here to read or write these articles!?

Mankind has got a serious ego problem if it believes the planets rising temperature is our doing alone, particularly when it is historical science FACT that the planet has been warmer than the present long ago in the past before Man could even contribute his first fart to the winds of Global Warming.

What exactly is the Green plan in the event of Global Cooling, will we be making airtravel cheaper to encourage the propagation of greenhouse gasses to keep the planet warm?

  • 64.
  • At 10:15 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Geoff Lear wrote:

Worrying about flying and our carbon footprint is missing the point.

When, oh when, are the politicians and the media going to stop talking about the symptom of global warming, and address the the disease of MANKIND'S POPULATION EXPLOSION ?

In 1600 there were 5 million people in the British Isles; today there are 70 million. It's not difficult to do the maths on what this has done to our carbon footprint.

France (pensions crisis), Israel (vote rigging) and the Roman Catholic church (theology) are just some examples where population growth is, insanely, encouraged. Yet these happen without comment on their implications for the world.

China is the planet's only example of effective population control, but even there it is stabilising rather than reducing.

Wake up. There are too many of us!

  • 65.
  • At 10:16 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Lionel Tiger wrote:

Here are a few pieces of information that are useful considerations for the efficiency of planes :

Turbofans optimise thrust by containing the propellors, thereby avoiding wasteful loss of energy in the form of useless lateral thrust. This should theoretically make them more efficient than turboprops.

Turboprops are the most noisy engine design. I would not want to live under the flightpath where those planes are continually flying. Shorthaul flights should not be necessary.

Travel to and from the airports at departure and destination needs to be considered in the use of planes.

Trains are by far the more efficient mode of transport than planes or cars.

Kerosine jet fuel used in planes contains a different amount of energy per litre than a litre of petroleum fuel. This needs to be taken into consideration when directly comparing fuel consumption figures. Diesel also contains a different amount of energy per litre than petrol and kerosine.

Market forces should determine the most efficient option when comparing modes of transport. All other factors being equal, the most economical option should favour the most energy efficient option. However factors such as maintenance, staff, labour, and taxation also affect prices. Seeing as aviation fuel is subject to minimal taxation, why not remove taxation on fuel used in trains, to level the playing fields with that of planes ? Thing is, the atmosphere doesn't need the same maintenance for use as a travel medium that railway tracks and roads do. Is this justifiable, seeing as we all pay road tax to use the road and the rail fare includes money for track maintenance ? Should there be an air tax that charges planes for their use of the airspace in the same way that we pay road tax ? Should the use of airspace be effectively free for planes to travel through ? Should there be a proposed system to track planes using gps and levy a charge for the distance they travel, as has been suggested for use on the roads ? This could differentially charge planes for the distance they travel and the disturbance they cause to local residents related to their frequency and time of flight. This would also enhance safety by knowing exactly where planes are, avoiding crashes and preventing the risk of errant behaviour of terrorist hijacked planes from avoiding detection.

It should be considered that use of aviation fuel puts up the price of petrol. Remember after 9/11 when petrol was only 65p per litre ? A bit different to the current 95p per litre now. This brings in more revenue from fuel tax for the government.

  • 66.
  • At 10:17 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • steven dobbs wrote:


fuel litres/km/person

compares to a family car...

...but how many times do you drive thousands of miles in a day?

  • 67.
  • At 10:18 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Paul wrote:

From what I understand from the various environmental reports and TV programmes etc, aviation produces only a fraction of the total global carbon emissions even accounting for the 'radiative forcing' effect so lets stop this hysteria about flying. Road transport, shipping, power generation and deforestation all produce far more emissions than aviation so lets tackle the big problems first before aviation. Even if aviation doubled it would still produce less polution than any one of the other big contributors. The aviation industry is spending billions every year on efficiency research and the prediction is that in 20 years time new aircraft will be 50% more efficient than even todays aircraft which themselves are 70% more efficient that 40 year ago. Aviation contributes huge amounts to our economy (far more in percentage terms that it's percentage contribution to polution) and therefore it's contribution to the economy helps pay for the research into new technologies to cut emissions. Without a strong economy we could not afford to carry out this research and therefore aviation is a vital contributor to the solution.

  • 68.
  • At 10:26 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • John Cooper wrote:

I don't think that using hydrogen to fuel cars is ever going to be practical but it could possibly used for aircraft, either in modified jet or rocket engines. However production of the hydrogen would also need to be done in an environmentally clean way such as nuclear power.

  • 69.
  • At 10:27 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • robert sams wrote:

Plane manufacturers design the planes for the club class and first class passengers. Extra passengers also implies extra baggage, and these all have to be correctly balanced to achieve idea positioning for the plane in takeoff, flight, and landing.

So this isn't the answer to your conclusion. Do you honestly think it's as easy as that? Another example of journalistic simplicity at work i see.

  • 70.
  • At 10:29 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Mal Lansell wrote:

It's not practical to collect the emissions from planes. It's also not practical to prevent people from flying. However, the planet CAN sustainably tolerate some level of CO2 emissions.

Forget the planes - capture CO2 where it is more practical to do so(i.e from cars and power stations), and whether people fly or not, the level will then be low enough to no longer be a problem.

  • 71.
  • At 10:33 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Gordon wrote:

"Awesome, so when I move to Los Angeles next month I have to walk there?"

That's your call - you could take a boat which would be more efficient if you are concerned. I'm not against people taking planes - they can do so if they wish - all I have a problem with is the rising (predominately) middle class who boastfully state they recycle all their rubbish, only buy local food and only use their "lasts for a lifetime" supermarket bags - all before jetting off to the Caribbean for a weeks holiday. It is a growing section of the populous who are not just hypocrites, but are dangerous hypocrites - they believe their conscience is clear if they fill up their blue bins - they can wash their hands of the problem and instead pour scorn on others. People have to get real here. As a professor who was giving a colloquia I attended on this very issue a month ago said - "if everyone does a little all we get is a little".

  • 72.
  • At 10:34 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Linda wrote:

Someone cut down the last tree on Easter Island, probably justifying it by saying that if (s)he didn't then someone else would! And why shouldn't they have had the right to cut it down - after all, survival of the fittest (richest, in the West's case) is the most important thing, isn't it?

I think everyone has the sneaking feeling that they know they're poisoning the atmosphere for future generations - but hope that their justification for their flight/trip (it's only a short one, a once-in-a-lifetime one, etc) means it doesn't really count...

And yes, I have flown (quite a lot in the past as part of my job) and recognise that I have contributed to the current levels of CO2 (which will create climate change, and it's too late to stop it happening now...) Question is though, do we want to keep making it worse?

  • 73.
  • At 10:36 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Peter (Northampton) wrote:

I'm glad somebody mentioned Sir Richard's space tourism.

Sit with a bunch of people, talk about Global Warming and you hear "stop flying" etc then mention trips into space and most people will say "I'd love to do that".


So pay £100,000 for 15 minutes of weightlessness putting who-knows-what into the atmosphere to not actually go to a destination...and you've probably still got to fly to wherever the space vehicle blasts off from.

So space tourism in many forms is due to become a booming industry soon....for the very in the meantime to compensate for the needs of the few, the many must give up their cheap flights abroad.

Global Warming, Climate Change, Pollution.....these aren't the issues.

TreeHuggers beware, your purpose has been hijacked and you now can't see the wood for the trees.

  • 74.
  • At 10:38 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Rob T wrote:

We have a climate emergency.

The airline industry response?

They offer 1p flights, 45% of which are in Europe are less than 310 miles, using the most carbon intensive form of transport. In fact THE form of transport that is hardest to de-carbonise, injecting pollution straight into the sky causing around 3 times more damage than at ground level.

This in turn creates unsustainable travel patterns (such as second homes abroad) and a glutinous binge flying culture, taken by rich people on glorified shopping trips with no benefit to the economy whatsoever here and no regard for the planet’s children or poor.

This while arguing for more airports, often choking surrounding roads and creating a huge noise problem.

That’s why they have a PR disaster.

  • 75.
  • At 10:40 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • bob ballard wrote:

An excellent book which covers exactly this topic and others is 'How to live a low-carbon life' by Chris Goodall. I can highly recommend it as a good read, good science and a good dollup of realism. On this subject, which is probably THE trickiest, there is only 1 solution he suggests. Ethical people must stop flying.

  • 76.
  • At 10:41 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Ian Lowe wrote:

I realised this week that I am more than happy to take flights with a completely clear conscience.

My wife and I have opted not to have children. That one single act means that we have made a bigger impact than our flights will ever build up.

  • 77.
  • At 10:42 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Gary L wrote:

Will your trip of 4 to Corsica by other forms of transport than air 'actually' be less harmful having read the posts concerning ferries and cars?

  • 78.
  • At 10:43 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Graeme Hampton wrote:

What abut a return to the airship. Surely it should be possible to construct an airship capable of carrying 500 passengers which would presumably use a lot less fuel. It might be a bit slower but the journey could be a lot more entertaining. Could someone do a green comparison between Airship and airplane travel ?

  • 79.
  • At 10:53 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Graeme wrote:

Firstly, I think it is stupid to suggest that we should look for more efficient air travel; it is pure luxury! As DJ wrote earlier, it's not like the whole british empire could not run without people flying across it in a few hours.

On to my main point, people almost always talk about this wrong. You will often hear people say something like: "If we don't do something, the world will end!" Even if we pulled all of the carbon out of the earth, oxidised it and baked the planet, it wouldn't suddenly explode but you can make damn sure that there'd be a hell of a lot less humans living on this rock. The same goes for the american government funded scientists presenting data that shows how high CO2 levels were in the past. Does everyone fail to see that six billion people weren't trying to live here when the planet had those climates?

  • 80.
  • At 10:56 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Mary wrote:

Never mind the green argument. Please could we use the correct word for the abuse suffered by people not being green. It is flak, not flack. Flack is the American word. Flack in British English is to serve as a press agent or to publicise.

  • 81.
  • At 11:04 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • saj wrote:

Its funny, environmentally friendly methods will only delay any adverse effects - they will occur eventually. We are just spending money to prolong the effect. Why don't we use that cash just to enjoy the quality of life we have. Yes make some effort but lets not all get willy nilly about it. Flying is part of our life's now - its gonna be difficult to get rid of that, and whilst we have that muppet G.Bush we aint going no where. I say leave it and just live life to the max.

  • 82.
  • At 11:06 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Chris Street wrote:

I'm not sure where you get your thermodyanmics from. Modern high speed *turbocharged* car diesels are easily 40% efficient, and stationary prime movers in ships exceed 50% efficiency. It is only the older normally aspirated ones that acheive low figures in the 30's - rather an unfair comparison to compare a modern jet to a 60 year old engine design. Shame on Ethical Man

  • 83.
  • At 11:09 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Chandira wrote:

Flying at higher altitudes is about passenger comfort. It's far less bumpy than flying at lower altitudes.

I don't fly all that much, but I don't feel so bad about that in a way. I'd rather feel bad about my carbon emissions than feel like I was going to die in an aircrash as a result of turbulence.. ;-)

  • 84.
  • At 11:18 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Peter (Northampton) wrote:

Robin B wrote:
Peter (Northampton) wrote:

"What about the space industry? Every space shuttle launch probably equates to I don't know how many 747's."

Rockets burn oxygen and hydrogen to form water.A common misconception popularised by the "green lobby"

Robin, you are half right. The main rocket motor of an Arianne 5 does only use oxygen and hydrogen however, Arriane 5 also uses solid propellant booster rockets similar to those used on the Space Shuttle.

The solid boosters on the Space Shuttle use ammonium-perchlorate (a particularly nasty substance) amongst other solid materials. The two solid boosters on the Space Shuttle account for 83% of the takeoff thrust for the space shuttle.

I'm not a Green......I do believe we're polluting our environment but I doubt very much we're creating planetary change other than cosmetic.

All I want is to go on holiday once a year to a destination of my choice using a mode of transport suitable to me without other people telling me what a bad person I am (whilst they conveniently forget all the journeys they've made themselves).

  • 85.
  • At 11:18 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Sam Lamb wrote:

The world's press has missed the carbon point. If all carbon emissions were banned today, the world's climate is still irrevocably changed. Banning is so short sighted and reactionary.
Carbon removal is the ONLY way to reduce the damage.
Carbon is extremely efficient at energy storage. Just make it sustainable carbon use.

  • 86.
  • At 11:20 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • David wrote:

Don't fly, Don't go on holiday, Don't drive, Don't eat food from outside the UK, Don't turn the light on, Don't watch TV, Don't use plastic bags, Don't use paper, Don't build with wood, Don't have kids, Don't breathe, Don't live.... In fact its probably best you just stop doing everything.

  • 87.
  • At 11:20 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • mike wrote:

You are comparing planes to CARS, but you should be comparing them to trains or buses... (or even bicycles!)

It is very unfortunate that our default means of transport is CAR. It is a terrible means of transport. Apart for ecological issues, it makes our cities unliveable.

If only a bit more money got spent on develeoping a VIABLE cheap public transport system so that people could stop thinking CAR, CAR, CAR.

  • 88.
  • At 11:39 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Steve Brindle wrote:

Most modern jet aircraft engines use a lot less fuel per kilometer than the average car engine. So singling out aviation as being less socially acceptable than strangling kittens is balderdash.
The quickest way to slow down global warming would be a complete economic buoycott of American, Indian and Chinese goods. If we emasculate the industries of the biggest CO2 emmitting countries we'll both feel smug over global warming AND help our friends in Russia get fat on the extra demand for gas in the colder winters.
Erm....I think I need a holiday.

  • 89.
  • At 11:52 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • John Watson wrote:

Meanwhile, the average volcano eruption is emitting more CO2 than any amount of planes or cars ever will. Maybe you should spend your time researching the facts - CO2 does not cause climate change just as steam does not cause water to boil. Ever wondered why every other planet in our system is heating up as well? They don't have 4x4s on mars by the way.

  • 90.
  • At 11:52 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Ernest Adams wrote:

The VAST majority of human-caused carbon dioxide released into the air comes from burning the South American rain forest down... yet burning the South American rain forest contributes almost nothing to the global economy.

Airplanes are a tiny fraction of the problem by comparison, yet they contribute enormously to the global economy. Business needs to travel. Believe me, it doesn't do it if it doesn't have to -- no company spends hundreds on air tickets for something it could do by E-mail for nothing. But when it has to, it has to.

The greens have the wrong end of the stick -- they're aiming for what seems to be an easy target, rather than the much more difficult one of saving the Amazon basin.

  • 91.
  • At 11:53 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • Candy Spillard wrote:

People really are beginning to look at the possibility of using airships for freight (CargoLifter, for example) and for tourism (I think sightseeing trips from Friedrichshaven are now available). Sadly CargoLifter has been stymied, at least for now, by the low price of fuel.
Airships are also being touted as an alternative to satellites for telecommunications: they can more easily be moved around and reconfigured to keep up with changing user needs, they use far less fuel (in fact they can be powered with Solar, using fuel cell backup for night hours). Look up HAPs (High Altitude Platforms) or UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) on Google.

To whoever commented about space travel using no hydrocarbons: true BUT how exactly is all that Hydrogen fuel made? Or does the USA have Hydrogen mines??

Why not put a ban on private flying? Many rich and famous types commute to work and the like in their private jet. Surely this kind of thing can't go on for much longer?

  • 93.
  • At 12:02 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Steve Parker wrote:

There are many facets to this debate.

Nuclear power stations in the UK are getting old and being retired. So, the hysteria about climate change and carbon footprints is needed by politicians.

When people realise they don't want the country covered in windmills and they have been turned against burning anything, even bio-fuels, to generate electricity because of CO2 emissions, it will be much easier to persuade them that nuclear is the best option. Then there will be a ready supply of nuclear material for weapons manufacture.

The government needs people to fly in aeroplanes so it can justify the building of new nuclear plants.

  • 94.
  • At 12:04 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Simon Allen wrote:

Turboprops are time efficient on journeys up to (approx) two hours. After that, their slow speed will mean that folks will not want ot use them and the carriers cannot get proper efficiency from the aircraft in a 24 cycle.

The Regional Jets that now do these sub-two hour journeys are liked by the passengers because they fly higher and can give a smoother rider. They are quieter and 'sexier'. i.e. the punter likes Jets.

Someone suggested that cramming more people into the aircraft will cause someone to start a biz class only airline and reset the stats. That happened more than five years ago. Lufthansa and Privat Air run Biz only flights on special B737s and A319s from Europe to the USA. In this country, we already have MaxJet, Eos and SilverJet doing this to the USA. Within the last week, BA have announced that they plan to start similar services from mainland Europe to North America.

It really is very simple - until the oil is running out, nothing will change. There are only two things that drive mankind to change. Money and fear of death.

  • 95.
  • At 12:05 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Pete wrote:

One word. Airships.

They don't need jet engines as they are naturally lighter than air, they can carry more people than aeroplanes and in more comfort, they might be slower, but lets say more sedate, and we've had nearly 100 years since Hindenburg to sort all those nasty explosive problems (most of the passengers walked away from the Hindenburg as well, you have to be extremely lucky to walk away from an Aeroplane crash) Safer, cleaner, nicer, presumably cheaper to build and maintain, infinitely more pleasing to the eye and ear. Why are we using Aeroplanes again?

  • 96.
  • At 12:06 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • d wrote:

I worked on the Department for Transport Air Transport White Paper in 2003. I should say, everytime I see a discussion on tv concerning aviaiton and its environmental impact I get very cross, with the grossly uninformed people, demonising great technology, which has helped enrich us all. When I hear the Green Party saying domestic flights should be banned, I want to throw them out of the room.

The fact of the matter is this: We know we must reduce CO2 emissions dramatically in the future. The UK wants a target for a 60% reduction on 1990 levels by 2050. Thus it doesn't actually matter what makes up the final 40% in 2050, it could be ALL from aviation, and none from elsewhere - does it really matter? We've hit the target?! the point is, it is far too costly for aviation to cut back on emissions - new fuels don't work, because the density of hydrogen is such that the entire areoplane would have to be redesigned. It's far better to cut emissions in industries where it is cheaper to do so, that means not aviaiton. With aviaiton trading CO2 emissions, say in the EU Emissions trading scheme, aviation would be forced to buy emission permits from industries who could cut back on emissions more cheaply. That's the answer.

Now I pray to god the Green's and the Lib Dems shut up, and let people who know what they're talking about solve the debate, rather than reactionary liberals who think purely in ideological terms, rather than logical practical terms.

  • 97.
  • At 12:18 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • David Fuller wrote:

Searching Wikipedia (List of countries by carbon dioxide emissions per capita) is see that UK residents generate about 10 tonnes of CO2 per head per annum (this compares to USA 20 tonnes and China 3 tonnes per head). Now my wife and I don't have children so we have saved the planet say 2 persons worth of CO2 over the next 80 or so years, about 1600 tonnes of CO2 assuming UK energy usage does not increase or decline. I believe the average round the world trip generates about 3 tonnes of CO2 per person so should we feel guilty if we travel the world - we are just using part of our childrens allocation. Will government in the future allow us to offset not having children against our carbon footprint?

  • 98.
  • At 12:19 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Jeremy Hunt wrote:

You're wringing hands over frankly the minuscule effect Jets have on the climate while travelling to India???? Given it's one of the two worst offenders when it comes to this non-event I think your priorities need looking at!!

You mention the idea of an economy only airline, using modern planes, and filling the seats. Sounds like Easyjet and Ryanair to me...

  • 100.
  • At 12:22 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Ginsberg wrote:

Surely if planes carried the extra weight of another ~300 passengers, together with the extra 300 bags of luggage, they would find it very hard to get off the ground in the first place, and there would be an extremely small maximum luggage weight per person.

It looks like the old tall ships are the only option for crossing oceans efficiently...

  • 101.
  • At 12:24 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Peter wrote:

What about F1 racing. Flying 1000s of people not to mention the cars around the world every week. Then the race itself - the world's biggets polluter......

  • 102.
  • At 12:33 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • matty wrote:

I say 'burn it up'.Lets forget about global warning and pretend its not happening(if indeed it is).We can treat it as an experiment and if it does happen and all hell breaks loose then we have at least shown future generations what happens when we abuse the planet,and they may learn from our mistakes.We should of course record all the data.

  • 103.
  • At 12:39 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • David wrote:

I think you'll find sulphur excreted at hight produces a UV/heat reflecting layer that can help cool the globe back down.

  • 104.
  • At 12:41 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • William wrote:

The Earth absorbs about 16 billion tonnes of CO2 per year. The rest of what we emit remains in the atmosphere for a long time and adds to the greenhouse effect. In 2002, we emitted 42 billion tonnes. Eventually we will have to reduce emissions to the 16 billion that the Earth can absorb so that the concentration in the atmosphere stops rising. By that time there will be 8 billion plus humans. 16 billion divided by 8 billion gives 2 tonnes per head per year. A return transatlantic flight releases 1.25 tonnes of CO2. Multiply by 2.7 to allow for radiative forcing gives nearly 3.5 tonnes.
How many people will fly transatlantic when the allowance is 2 tonnes per head per year?
Very few. Mass air travel as we know it today is doomed.

  • 105.
  • At 12:53 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Jessie wrote:

Aircraft emissions make up only a small amount of the total harmful emissions released into the atmosphere by humans. In 1999, they contributed around 3.5% of this total, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Shouldn't our focus be directed towards more significant sources of harmful emissions in the first place?

As someone previously mentioned, the real problem needs to be addressed, not the most convenient-to-handle problem.

  • 106.
  • At 01:17 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Mark Hughes wrote:

"Maybe you should spend your time researching the facts - CO2 does not cause climate change"

Maybe you should spend some time researching your facts - CO2 historically lagged climate change at the start of warming periods, but then drove it after that (the increase in temperatrue causing an increase in CO2 causing further increase in temperature, eventually limited by the amount of available CO2).

This time around, we're the ones giving that initial push of CO2, but there is absolutely no doubt scientifically that more CO2 in the atmosphere does have a warming effect. Not to mention that our CO2 output is not self limiting in the way of the natural cycles, as we are releasing huge amounts of long-term trapped CO2 by burning fossil fuels.

  • 107.
  • At 01:18 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • David (Manchester) wrote:

It appears to me from what I've read here so far that filling longhaul flights with people may indeed at present be environmentally friendly ?-)

365 people on a flight is 365 people not in cars.

One average person's annual car CO2 emissions is 365 average people's daily car CO2 emissions.

So if one longhaul flight emits in total one average person's annual car CO2 emissions then the flight would only need to be saving 365 daily car CO2 emissions to be carbon neutral!

So for personal guilt-free (ethical?) flying, make sure you're on a full longhaul flight and save a day or two's car travel.

It would be fascinating to know in reality how many car journeys are avoided per flight - an investigation by Ethical Man perhaps? I'd guess that longhaul flights avoid more than shorthaul mainly because the passengers are on the plane for much longer.
And presumably flights would become relatively less environmentally friendly as more cars (hopefully) go more affordibly hybrid/electric?

Final point - our new climate change religion may still be very confused but it's probably the best show in town to encourage more of us to adjust quicker and less painfully to a world with less oil, which I suspect is a much bigger political motivator than is currently publicly acknowledged.
"Save the planet !" is understandibly likely to get a far more passionate and effective public response than "Transition to a global economy far less dependent on oil !".

More pragmatics than ethics.

  • 108.
  • At 01:19 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Isobel wrote:

If you stop all public transport flights to from and within the UK, you save 0.1-0.2% of global CO2. Draconian measures like stopping people flying business class or forcing longhaul jets to make several stops are pointless and unrealistic. Even if you could, more people would fly in private jets, or go on driving holidays or cruises or use high speed trains which offer little advantage on long journeys. The best bet is to make sure the EU includes air transport in the new system of carbon emissions trading. This will ration total CO2 without undermining the economy or damaging global transport networks.

  • 109.
  • At 01:31 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Fred wrote:

Joe Public will decide what they will accept, as they have in the past. What do I mean ? well...
1. Propellers went out in the sixties, unfashionable we were all told. So for years aircraft designers shelved development of turboprops in favor of jets. When they did test a new efficient prop (propfan) mounted on a modified MD80 and brought it to Farnborough, the unfortunate band-saw soundtrack didn't go down well with the locals.
2. If you remove biz class then the price per seat down the back will increase considerably, so that may discourage some from flying but would be commercial suicide for the airlines.

  • 110.
  • At 01:35 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Geoff Cosnett wrote:

I'm afraid a lot of science gets twisted here. The "Solar cell covered airship" won't work because the solar cells will be too heavy and lack mechanical strength to act as a "skin". Airships are not balloons with motors. We used to have (still do have) turboprop engines. The problem is the propeller is inefficient as a driving force.(Look up Bristol Brittania).It simply is not possible, as is suggested, to put more passengers into an aircraft design. Minor things like toilets and food have to be supplied and a trade off between numbers, comfort AND PROFIT is the reason for mixed seating. Each first class user helps to keep profits up and overall prices down. Aircraft costing is based on aircraft lifespan, miles covered, maintainance cost and running costs. Longer life, lower costs more profit.

  • 111.
  • At 01:47 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Cat wrote:

'Living on an island as the UK pretty much doesn't give you an option but to fly'
I disagree with that statement. Every time I travel to Europe I go by train. This summer I'm going to Prague by train. It takes a bit longer, but that's part of the adventure. I think flying within central and near Eastern Europe should be banned. As for countries that are inacessible other than by plane, travel there should be purely on a neccessity basis, because our climate cannot sustain people constantly swanning off to warmer climes on holiday. All of my holidays have been within Europe, many in the UK and they've all been fantastic, what is the need to go further afield for such a short time at the expense of the planet?

'A scheduled flight flies whether it's got 20 passengers or 200.' Yes, but the more people that abstain from flying, the less demand there will be and the less flights will be required.

If you think I'm going to travel economy from Australia to the UK, forget it.

While you assume that first class is a luxury for fat cats, there is a class of people for which 28 hours in an economy seat might actually kill them.

I don't care for the food in first - far too much; I refuse most of it. All I want is a bed to sleep on and a bottle of water to prevent dehydration and for the experience to be over as soon as possible.

Put simply, if this wasn't available, I could never see my family again.

Those of us who often travel first class, have come to realise that it is not that first class is a wonderful way to fly; it's not. It's just that economy is really appalling (more so these days). It's the moral equivalent to smoking; it's bad for your health and those around you. Just because it’s cheap and efficient doesn't make it right.

Please feel free to add the price of a neutralising amount of carbon credits to the price of my first class ticket, if that makes you feel better.

You also forget one thing; Those of you in economy only get to pay the low price of your ticket, because those of us up front of the plane are subsidising you. A first class ticket is about 8-10 times the cost of an economy ticket, and we sure as hell don't get 8-10 times the space (unless, of course, things are getting really bad in economy these days....).

  • 113.
  • At 02:42 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Lionel Tiger wrote:

I think flight for freight is also of significance. Freight is projected to quadruple in the recent future. I doubt this is more efficient than lorries or trains. What produce will be transported ? Ikea Pine Diy kits from Scandinavia ? Or maybe an out of season strawberry or Cantaloupe from Rhodesia ? Is it really so critical to receive all these products by air ? I suspect the Mdf wardrobe would not be affected by taking the slow more energy efficient option. The strawberry, probably less so. Why can't we just accept that we have seasons and that means seasonal differences in diet. If you want a uniform abundance in food, just go and live on the equator or in a Communist Gulag. It's part of our culture to have seasonal fruits adapted to out climate, such as strawberries at Wimbledon. Is this consumerism really what our culture needs, or is it turning our lives into a life without variety and season. Unless the intention is to create climate change and stop seasons. How much of this 'super'market consumerism has given us poor tasting products laced with preservatives in bulky containers, and put the local baker, greengrocer and garage out of business ? Is this consumer choice, or removal of an alternative option ? The alternative option of biofuels was put out of business by oil executives (notably Rockafeller) in the 20's. People were told it was because the mail biofuels were alcohols, demonised as drugs. This mindless consumerism has in fact removed our choice and destroyed our regional local culture. Our culture is now that which is dependent on the cultures of others, which have been restrained from development to support our socially engineered 'culture'. And now they also aspire to the 'desirable' culture to which they have been shown as so 'super', and destroy their own culture by displacing their own with our unsustainable and socially engineered tripe. How many mindless unhelpful workers can you count in supermarkets crushing your bread and bruising your fruits. Fascism starts at home, Hitler knew this, one day all culture will be the property of 'super'markets, like a glorious empire controlling production, consumption and culture. One day all supermarkets will merge to form the 'super'market of all supermarkets, the Reich of power, defining the 'divine' food of all. There will be no alternative option because it will be put out of business.

  • 114.
  • At 02:59 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • maria wrote:

I'll give up flying as soon as I've joined the Mile High Club.

  • 115.
  • At 03:02 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Muhammed wrote:

So, I've got to feel guilty about driving a car, flying, buying food from abroad, having kids, having a big garden, owning a flatscreen tv - what next?
And if everyone gave up flying, the green brigade would want us to stop using ferries, then trains. They'll never be satisfied until we're all back in the stone age living in caves. Sorry, but I am sick and tired of all this carbon footprint rubbish. I have family in Pakistan - I have to fly there to visit them.
I'd like to know what's causing the global warming on Mars - E.T using cheap flights?

  • 116.
  • At 06:06 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Ken Simmonds wrote:

The passion of the environmental issue reminds me of the mentality that burnt witches in the middle ages. The science is as yet unproven, merely a theory.

However if fossilised carbon is really such a threat why not run the gas turbines on hydrogen, or sustainable ethanol fuel?

  • 117.
  • At 06:14 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Max Sommers wrote:

If I choose not to go on my annual holiday to the UK with my family, can anyone explain how much I save in the way of carbon emissions, given that they are not going to cancel the flight on account of me not taking it?

  • 118.
  • At 06:15 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Geoff wrote:

The trick is to be smart about this sort of thing -- use the most efficient means of transport that is practical for your situation. If you're traveling alone, public transportation is more efficient than driving. In other situations, car pooling is probably more efficient than flying. If you're only going a mile or two and don't have heavy cargo, bicycling or walking is the way to go. The problem is people have been obfuscating and making excuses for not taking action for the better part of 30 years. That's why palm trees will some day be growing wild in Minneapolis.

  • 119.
  • At 06:19 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • julie wrote:

There is an another option - carbon offsetting programs such as Greenfleet Australia, a not for profit organisation, that plants native trees to offset carbon dioxide emissions. For those of us with family overseas, it's a practical and affordable way to feel like we can make a difference.

  • 120.
  • At 06:27 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Sara wrote:

One thing that could be done is to reduce the amount of weight each passenger carries on board. By reducing the amount of luggage one brings (did you really need to take 3 pairs of shoes on that 4 day trip?) and reducing one's own body mass, we can effectively reduce the amount of fuel that is spent simply hauling us about.

If all passengers lost 5 kilos we could easily conserve the fuel of 10 passengers on a full flight. Or better yet lose 10 kilos as most of us could stand to lose this and more!

Solve the obesity problem and reduce carbon emissions in one fell swoop.

  • 121.
  • At 06:40 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Jonathan wrote:

I know exactly what ethical man means, I see the impact by using a carbon calculator. I've almost stopped using a car, I now use cycle and train mostly, our domestic electricity and gas consumption is below average (not at all hard to achieve). Our family carbon 'debt' would be well below average without it having much impact on our lives (and even benefits such as the pleasure of cycling) ...until I factoring in our long haul flights.

We just have to accept that we cannot travel 1/2 way round the world twice a year for holidays/family visits. At least I have been able to reduce my business travel (which was always economy class :-) with increased use of eCommunication, video conferencing etc. But one misses a nice warm beach and exotic food!

  • 122.
  • At 06:43 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Jagdish wrote:

I think, one stand-out flaw in your analysis is your failure to take into acocunt the superior quality of aviation fuel (white petrol). So, if a jumbo jet returns similar efficiency as a Prius with a way superior fuel, the figures are nothing to feel 'ethical' about.

  • 123.
  • At 06:49 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • ajaya wrote:

some day by 2020, or 2030, technology will be advance enough to split CO2 into Carbon and Oxygen, such that we make diamond out of carbon, and the oxygen be sent back to atmosphere..
Only problem is that ,even though the scientists have a solution to the problem of environmental damage but government is run by someone else...
Just think about how much carbon is released during a war.

  • 124.
  • At 06:53 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Eric Geroulis wrote:

We must keep investing in scientific research to produce ever more efficient airplanes, and even perhaps hybrid airplanes that will draw a good portion of their energy from alternative sources. Additionally, we can expand and improve ground transportation, namely high-speed rail, to greatly reduce our dependence on both the airplane and the automobile for relatively short distances, such as within Britain.

It seems as though environmental guilt has replaced the other guilts of the past as the string with which one can be controlled. There was "God's will" and "The will of the people" or "for queen and country", etc. Now we have all sorts of people trying to outdo one another in how "eco-friendly" and "green" they are. It's so shameful. Truth and rationality are thrown out the window.

Here are some general truths which apply to the efficiency of jets.

- A well maintained machine tends to perform better. Jets are expensive to maintain.

- A machine can be designed for a specific duty or general duty. A special machine will outperform a general purpose machine only within its defined criteria. Outside of that criteria, the general purpose machine will perform better.

- Jet engines and jet aircraft are designed for long-haul voyages. They are not as efficient when pressed into short-haul service. Much fuel is wasted in holding patterns, because of the low altitude in which the planes are often forced to operate at.

- Propeller driven aircraft wait in different queues than jet aircraft at major airports. This can be a great advantage.

It is important to think of the air transport system as a whole, when considering efficiency. Over the past forty years, drastic improvements have been made in aircraft design in terms of safety, efficiency, and noise. But the air transport system is becoming increasingly inefficient. This is due primarily to its inability to cope with the increased demands placed on it.

The difficulty of the airports in dealing with the public come from noise, land-use, zoning, labor, tax, and a host of other issues.

To improve the environmental performance of air travel, focus on the efficiency of the infrastructure, not the emissions of a specific aircraft.

  • 126.
  • At 06:58 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Jonathan wrote:

Most of the arguments seem to be "my little bit doesn't matter compared to the chinese/military flights/cost of manufacturing cars etc." I think you have to look at in terms of your own personal consumption, and optimise that. People are responsible for their OWN behavior, and thats what they can change. Looking at profligate behaviour elsewhere and using that to justify your own does not really make sense (except to a 6 year old!).

  • 127.
  • At 06:58 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Tryggve Nelke wrote:

A lot of what has been said makes sense. We have to remember, however, that air travel probably contributes to a large extent to poor nations getting out of the poverty trap, through tourism, foreign investment and so on. And don't forget that a number of countries like Sri Lanka and the Philippines "need" (for now) to send at least 10% of their population abroad to earn money that gets transferred to their families back home. They can't spend many weeks at sea to reach their countries of employment and get back home for family reunions.

And the idea of "air ships" for short distance travel within continents needs to be further developed ASAP, as do the high speed train connections in Europe or the US.

  • 128.
  • At 07:02 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Shane wrote:

In a decade, when it becomes clear even to the most stupefied CO2 is evil climate change nut that the Sun is the cause of climate fluctuations, what are you luddites going to campaign against then?

Nox in the stratisphere is a worry. Deforestation is another. Soil loss and acification a genuine eco disaster.
Destruction of the worlds fish stocks even worse. But all of those are too inconvenient as it would require Europeans to look at just how bad their environmental actions really are and do something that would really help.

  • 129.
  • At 07:10 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Doug wrote:

Get over it. Global warming is just another fad like the ozone hole was. It will happen regardless of how efficent we think we are, it may just take a few days longer. And besides most people in the northern hemishere would all clamour for a few degrees warmer. In Johannesburg right now we are having the coldest winter I can remember so I'll go start my car and leave it running. While there are 'how many billion' people on the planet, we should rather concentrate on that and saving the Amazon etc instead of cutting them down for bio fuels. The world is going to warm up a few degrees, enjoy it!

  • 130.
  • At 07:11 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • asim rafiqui wrote:

this article suffers from a gross error of analysis and needs to be corrected. liters/km cannot be compared to liters/km/person. these are two different rations and seem to form the basis of the completely inane argument being made here i.e. that a Airbus A380 is more fuel efficient than a small Saab 9-5. its not. not if you use the right comparative ratios. this entire article is nonsense! will someone fix it please!

  • 131.
  • At 07:13 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Jon S. wrote:

With regards to the efficiency of the "Economy" A380, does it take into account that if you were to fill a plane with the 853 that the aircraft might be heavier then its efficient weight? There would be a point at which the aircraft reaches a maximum efficient weight. The answer might not be as easy as just filling the aircraft with as many people as possible, that only makes it look more efficient on paper. What they need to do is just try to develop cleaner jet fuels and engines, or try to reduce the number of flights. Maybe airliners should cancel flights that aren't more than half full. The last flight I was on two weeks ago was a short haul flight, the aircraft normally seats about 80 people, but on this flight there were maybe 20 people at most. Why not try to reduce the number of practically empty flights? There are a lot of little things airliners can do to reduce the number of flights, which in turn would reduce carbon amounts.

  • 132.
  • At 07:16 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • David Griffin wrote:

I used to travel a lot across the USA with my work. Then I persuaded my employer I could do most of the work from home via the internet (including training and troubleshooting). It saved everyone money and I wasn't away from my family. Customers were fine about it, it was my employers who took time getting their heads round it.

You only had to look at the fact that 95% of passengers checked laptops to realise that 90% of weekday flights were work related. And so many of these could be avoided.

Same with knowledge workers driving to work. Most of them could do a couple of days a week from home if we really tried.
The technology is there already - it just needs a bit of political will.

  • 133.
  • At 07:31 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • MAX wrote:

Maria in comment 114

I'm ready when you are

  • 134.
  • At 07:32 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • mag wrote:

One of the things that should also be discussed is the fact that the transport of goods and people makes up 8% of the world's economy with another 2% being what is spent when people travel. That figure does not take into account the other aspects of the aviation industry including manufacturing or planes, airports, etc. Add those in and the aviation industry grows to the neighborhood of 11% of the world economy.

Long-haul flights are also more efficient because the largest percentage of fuel is burned in the take-off process. So the fewer take-offs the less fuel burned.

One more thing, the people that are flying first and business class are paying a high premium for those tickets which is what allows people to travel in economy for the relativly low fares. Business class is usually between 5 and 10 times the price of economy.

So, while air travel does add to the pollution in the atmosphere we need to look at other causes like the cyclical nature of weather and the earth, the burning of the rain forest, the number of cars in the world, the number of people in the world, and the fact that everyone wants everything now and they want it cheap.

Air travel also provides people in remote parts of the world access to the world market, new ideas, better healthcare, etc.

So, like everything else in the world is has its advantages and disadvantages.

  • 135.
  • At 07:32 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • ken wrote:

I can't believe he did not mention the organizations who will 'offset' your carbon footprint by making calculations and planting a corresponding amount of forest.

  • 136.
  • At 07:40 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Max wrote:

For Maria, Comment 114

Mile High Club?

I'm up for it whenever you are, but let's go First Class and really annoy the World!

  • 137.
  • At 07:43 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Eugene wrote:

Ok, for one, anyone who thinks replacing flights with trains is a moron. The costs are astronomical for these projects, not to mention take a long time. Flight will always be a major trasporter of people. Its fast, efficient, and gets us where we want to be. Tourism is a huge revenue for many nations, if not all. People depend on flight. Carbon emmisions from planes is 3% of the worlds CO2 emmision. (source the news just answered this question, with the help of a university scientist). 3% not a whole lot considering the economic impact of the airline industry. Global warming is a fad that stupid celebrities and uninformed people are jumping into. There is NO, I repeat, NO hard evidence that Co2 emmisions will be detrimental. The earths temperature fluctuates normall over long periods of time. Next thing you know we'll be talking about GLOBAL FREEZING for christ sake.

  • 138.
  • At 07:46 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • ben wrote:

The other problem is the length of time passenger aircraft remain in service, counteracting the huge improvements in the fuel efficiency of new models. About seven years ago, I travelled across the atlantic in the cockpit of a BA 747 and the pilot said the plane was built in 1969 (though it was shortly to be replaced). If prosperous carriers like BA can operate aircraft as old as that, how long does it take before fuel inefficient planes finally reach the breakers yard? They do, after all represent an enormous investment.

  • 139.
  • At 08:00 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Hogan wrote:

If you are religious you will have a god that gave us the world and all its resources including enough oil/coal/gas reserves to create enough CO2 to sufficate us, if used unwisely. He (or she) gave us a free will to decide whether to burn it all and kill our species off (and many more) or not. Guess what we will do?
If you do not have a god, then Nature has done the same over millions of years, the result will be the same!
China and India, etc, have as much right to kill off the planet as the rest of us!

  • 140.
  • At 08:08 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Bruce Grant wrote:

My Carbon Footprints

I have of late been thinking hard just why we're all called vandals
So as from now I'll change my shoes and take to wearing sandals.
We're often told when washing clothes too big a load is wrong
And so I'll change my 'habit' and I'll choose to wear a thong.
The dear earth's crust will do its thing and spew from a volcano?
I'll change most things in reason -so really what do THEY know.

Just wear hair shirts and bear the pain I'm told it's for our good
When building any edifice these days, please don’t use real wood.
The countryside is kept in check - for our future - to behold
But you musn't go a visiting in your car you will be told.
I must confess much wastage could be stopped from going on
But when you listen to the hot air ... what Planet are THEY on?

Dave Grant

Brother Bruce’s addition…

Its kind of strange, the things they say in reference to the warming
Of global hots and floods and waves and greenhouse gasses warnings
Of course they all observe the rules and claim to set the examples
To those of us who live here, too, who listen to their rambles
Like Gore, et Al, they make much noise and try to seem so expert,
But in the end they fail so much that bad pressure's all they exert.

We hear of a super, ultra, absolutely low-cost Jumbo,
And how it'll fly so high up there, but what a lot of mumbo
a bigger plane costs more to raise, its carcass floats on carbon
dioxide caused by heating and all that other jargon.
When all is said and done, we'll say, the sqeaky wheel needs oiling
And all we'll do is loudly shout and keep our tempers boiling!

So, when an article in the news, like this one, comes a viewing
pick up your pens and write a load of words like someone spewing
a whole tirade of arguments that most of which make no sense
We nearly all will say our piece…then sit upon our own fence
Its human nature to complain, and more, so make a big fuss…
about weary travelers in the skys, who should all take the road bus!

Finally, we hear the claims of earth's scientific community
great experts all and claiming strong that we need to act in unity
understand the problem better, debate is lesser needed
once we all acknowledge that the earth is for us seeded
Earth's resources are there to use and we now know how to mind them
So stop your whinging one and all about fliers and how to condemn them!

Bruce Grant

I'm currently on a mostly-planeless trip around the world (I had to take a plane to cross from Greece to Egypt because there's no ferry) and I've found that it's far easier to have a rational, logical discussion about the existence of God than it is to discuss flying. The moment I tell someone that I do my best to not fly, they clutch their frequent flier card close to their chest and start beating me with their carry-on luggage. There are clearly many frequent fliers posting on here so I want to take this opportunity to tell you all that I don't want to stop you from flying. Here's why:

It's easy to rationalize anything with numbers, especially if those numbers are in per person terms. There are a lot of people on the planet, and the amount of pollution produced per person is very small. But pollution can't be measured per person, it has to be measured per planet. A post above quoted a figure for China's emissions, per person. I love thinking of China's pollution in per person terms - it's a very small amount and when I'm in Beijing, just thinking of how little pollution I'm supposedly breathing in makes my lungs hurt a little bit less. But Chinese pollution doesn't stay in China, just like America's pollution or Britain's or Egypt's or any other country's. Every spring, a cloud of Chinese heavy metals and Gobi desert sand blows over South Korea and Japan. People breathe it in, thinking "wow, this is so little pollution per person". The only reason we need to talk about pollution per person, whether it's from a factory or a plane, is to make ourselves feel better. Supposedly, we are only responsible for ourselves.

Climate change problems are not divisible by the number of people on the planet. We all produce pollution, and we all make decisions on the amount of pollution we produce. Aviation is only one of the ways in which people produce pollution on the planet and it is a choice like any other. If you fly, it's your choice. Flying shouldn't be demonised more than anything else. It serves a purpose. I needed to get to Egypt from Greece to film a documentary on youth employment problems in Cairo. I believe the benefit of the documentary outweighs the negatives of flight. But I wouldn't fly to Cancun just to get completely smashed out of my mind so I could puke on the beach and wake up in ditch with only my underwear on. I can do most of that in the comfort of my own home. I don't think the benefits of that flight would outweigh the negatives in that case. But that's only my choice. We make choices about what we eat, where we live, how we get to work, how we go to school, and, of course, how and where we travel.

Would I like to see people fly less? Yes. Do I think many people fly for less-than-beneficial reasons? Of course, one only needs to visit Riga, Latvia to meet all of the British men that just flew over on Ryan Air's Sex Tourist Express to realize how aviation can have a massive, negative impact on a culture. But many other things also have negative impacts. People that try to limit their negative impact on the world around them, will. And those that don't care, will do whatever they want. So fly fliers, fly. Simply be aware of the impact you have on the environment, don't try to hide in neat maths, and make conscious decisions that you're comfortable with.

Wouldn't it be better to be thinking about the major cause of greenhouse gas before addressing something way down on the scale such as flying?

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalent – 18 percent – than transport. It is also a major source of land and water degradation.

  • 143.
  • At 08:14 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • rod grover wrote:

Lots of impressive arguments on both sides don't change the simple reality that I remember wrangling about with the issuing of the Club of Rome's paper "The Limits to Growth" of 1971 and the subsequent debates of elaborate rationalizations. For me it wasn't a case of depleting oil resources, etc., it was the very notion that there WAS a limit to growth. The intervening years have amply substantiated that notion, simply put - we are a species that is very busily eating itself beyond its range. For all our comforts that we (my generation) have recklessly pursued, we (my children) now have to face the music. Talk to Rocky, "It's payback time!"

So I watched the cause of reduction being simply being played with for a year, and then figuratively as well as literally get dropped into the bin at the end.

Now, having waded through a lot of interesting, useful, worrying and frankly gob-smackingingly scary stuff here, I think the most potentially damaging thing to the environment I have read is in the original post: ' that I’m not Ethical Man'.

You can do a lot more damage from within. Ask any Trojan. Hope the ratings were worth it.

  • 145.
  • At 08:18 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • JP Hameleers wrote:

I have thought extensively about this. One of my crazy ideas come from the hub necessity. Suppose you want to travel from Europe to US. There are at least five major cities in both countries you may like to travel between.
To limit the unused seats, you need a hub at mi-distance. The nice thing with hubs is that they may be installed in the middle of nowhere; For instance at distance from seashore...!
If we continue, why not a plane carrier (possibly nuclear)? A fleet of super plane carriers (400000T) could shuttle betwen US and Ireland and behave as a hub for low emission props when approaching coasts. The length of the trip would be significantly higher than only plane but comfort and flexibility would be great... and emissions REALLY reduced.

  • 146.
  • At 08:20 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Brendan wrote:

Question: How does "cutting carbon emissions" make one ethical? I thought ethics was about how you treated other people, not whether or not you like to fly first class or go on a nice drive with the top down. This is pathetic!

  • 147.
  • At 08:22 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Lee wrote:

in 300 years time, when the planet is 3 degrees warmer (or colder) depending on a myriad of criteria over which we have zero control, students will uncover our mindless debates over who emits what and chortle to themselves.

Their great great liberal grandparents will be long gone, taking their plans to seriosuly retarded human devlopment with them, and they will marvel at how quickly their forefathers moved from one doomsday topic to another.

Apocoalypse, Aids, Homosexuality, Poverty, Terrorism, The Great Banana plague of 2085, The Lunar Stock Market crash of 2214, and whatever interesting invents we can create between now and then.

Clearly, looking after the planet we live on is a no brainer. But the scaremongering and political mire do a lot of harm. Before pointing the finger, lets be pragmatic, we need all the facts and a rational solution and for Pete's sake dont listen to those deceitful cretin politicians. Ever.

  • 148.
  • At 08:28 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Nigel wrote:

Fact or fiction? I was alarmed to learn at a dinner party recently that when planes have to make a landing, immediately after take-off, pilots must dump fuel in order to ensure a safe landing. It was also said that this happens up to six times a year at medium sized airports. If this is true, it should be factored into your analysis of the environmental impact of the airline industry.

  • 149.
  • At 08:54 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Ted Hope wrote:

The benefit of more efficient planes is counteracted by the fact that more flights occur because more people are travelling. Economy gains on a per passenger basis are meaningless if the total CO2 gain keeps going up. I fear it is already too late to try and reverse the process. We have defined what a better lifestyle means in a materialistic and hedonistic way, and I doubt that we will redefine it now, even if it kills off the whole human race.

  • 150.
  • At 08:57 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • WT de Vries wrote:

Words, words, words!

They pretty much all amount to the same: nobody wants to really change her/his way of consumerism life.

  • 151.
  • At 09:15 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Lee wrote:

Actually, There has already been a big global freezing scare - In the 70s accompanied by crude visuals of a frozen United Kingdom.

Funny how CGI has helps scare the pants off us!

  • 152.
  • At 09:50 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • georg wrote:

cut the crap, no excuses

there is just no justification

hit the road

  • 153.
  • At 09:50 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Peter (Northampton) wrote:

138. At 07:46 AM on 26 May 2007, ben wrote:
The other problem is the length of time passenger aircraft remain in service, counteracting the huge improvements in the fuel efficiency of new models. About seven years ago, I travelled across the atlantic in the cockpit of a BA 747 and the pilot said the plane was built in 1969 (though it was shortly to be replaced). If prosperous carriers like BA can operate aircraft as old as that, how long does it take before fuel inefficient planes finally reach the breakers yard? They do, after all represent an enormous investment.

Ben, although aircraft may remain in service for long periods of time, they will undergo numerous engine changes during span of operation. In retrospect what started life as an inefficient jet will invariable end it's life with much more efficient hardware attached. Remember that the plane's operators will want to run it as cheaply as possible so even if the latest engine costs more than the one being replaced, the cost will be justified in operational savings.

  • 154.
  • At 10:01 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Angus wrote:

Here's a quick and easy first step... governments legislate that on every airline website there must be a 'green' button, which calculates - for the flight you are booking - the amount of carbon you personally will emit as well as the notional cost of 'off-setting' that carbon. Already, this would be a huge leap in transparency - as people would start to become aware of what their flying was doing to the environment. Passengers could initially be invited to pay that sum voluntarily on top of the airfare - and get a special "I'm carbon-neutral" status (and privileges) during the flight. Eventually, this "carbon-neutral" add-on fee would become so familiar that it would be a short step for governments to make it obligatory.

  • 155.
  • At 10:31 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • p wrote:

Birthdays = 36; Return Long Haul flights = 3; Return Short Haul Flights = 22+-2 (must try harder), Cars owned = 0.

Personally, I would rather travel the world than drive a car. When I do make a long haul flight (from Australia) I go for a year or two - live, learn, work, make new friends and catch local public transport.

How many "flights per lifetime" is reasonable if you otherwise minimise your C02 output?

And if flying can be ethical, isn't it "more ethical" for MORE people to fly LESS often for the same net C02?

  • 156.
  • At 10:53 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • peter wrote:

you silly arrogant humans, both left and rigth, do not realize natures omnipotence. the earth can take care of itself. be real no one will give a s hit about global wearming if there was a massive epidemic of disease or war or any other waysd of keeping us in check if necessary-any of which is likely to occur before 2050 when the waters are supposed to rise by a footn or hatever. humans, being a part of nature itself, have as much of a right o alter the planet in their attempt at living a better life as do beavers, or grazing buffalo in hteir strugglr to live to the best of their ability witht he resources they have. it is our survival instincts that will force us to live symbiotically in nature (no, i dont meana hippie that lives in a tree) for a better quality of life. change in inevitable and we have sped it up, so what? our time on this planet is just a tiny fraction of the earhts life. enough liberal guilt and be glad that you are alive because when you die you wont give a shit.

  • 157.
  • At 10:55 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Alex wrote:

Your assumptions ignore the fact that the flight is not always the only component of the trip. Is your destination the airport! From my experience everyone want to get as far away from the airport as possible.

What I am refering to is the commute between the destination and the airport!
But that is a petty thing, is it not?
The real culprit is the desire to fly!

Why is an far away exotic location more attractive than some local destination when it comes to holidays?
Is this not the attitude that must change, and not finding more efficient ways to get to those exotic locations!

  • 158.
  • At 11:04 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Paul wrote:

This is an excellent piece and I think you have asked a valid question - but then, I am also biased as I too love flying and I also work in the industry. I would just like to respond to a few of the comments raised...
1) It is true that you were comparing a full plane against a car with only the driver in it and someone suggested that was unfair. However, hasn't there been steps taken to try to get more people to car share because the majority of cars on the roads at any given moment DO only contain the driver? Also, isn't there uproar among the flying public everytime they are asked if they wouldn't mind being "bumped" onto another flight because their flight is overbooked? Airlines regularly overbook because they want their flights to be full! So I think that the comparison was indeed fair - more so with the Boeing figures based on 70% occupancy.

2) Someone suggested that airlines don't use turboprops because they want to go places fast - that is not entirely true. They want to go places where they will make the most revenue and that would be achieved using a turboprop. The sad fact is that most travellers view any aircraft with a propeller as hailing from pre-1940's and also unsafe! Not so long ago, I was at an aiport in the southwest, seeing my family off, when a new turboprop (it was less than six months old) landed and I overheard someone say, "I hope gran isn't flying on that ancient thing! I can't understand why airlines still operate such old aircraft". It is a common perception that every airline I have ever been involved with is all too familiar with.

  • 159.
  • At 11:04 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Sarah Hunt wrote:

"You can do as I did - get rid of your car, switch to energy efficient bulbs, eat locally grown food - but take one holiday flight and you will wipe out all your careful carbon cuts."

Doesn't matter. Well, it does, but it doesn't make all the other efforts useless. Like a dieter who carefully counts calories all year, then eats enough for an elephant at the christmas party. It isn't a good idea to overeat that one time, but even if they hadn't been dieting, they would still have overeaten at the christmas party.

So, given that you would have flown on holiday anyway, your carbon emissions for the year are still lower thanks to all your careful effort.

  • 160.
  • At 11:22 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Eugene wrote:

Houston based Continental removed first class from long haul flights in the early 90's, upgraded business to BusinessFirst, and expanded Economy. This wasn't a green decision, it was to save money. (very few first class seats are sold, they're given away as perks to executives or frequent flier awards) BusinessFirst is a tremendous success for CAL - it is regularly voted best transAtlantic business service - and proves that airlines can make do with two classes of service.

  • 161.
  • At 11:35 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Bill Sephton wrote:

Everyone seems to be missing the point. Why are we trying to cure the sysptoms and not the disease. Polution is a result of over population whatever you save in one area will increase polution in another.

There are just too many of us but how you get people to accept the sustaind ecomomic hardship that would result from a falling population. Any political party that promoted it would be hounded out of office or revolution would overturn the green ideas and you are back where you started.

  • 162.
  • At 11:35 AM on 26 May 2007,
  • Dave wrote:

Lots of people in the UK have it in their heads that it is their right to take regular holidays by jet, or to drive their 4x4s around.

Forget global warming, the truth is that given an exponentially increasing worldwide population and corresponding oil consumption, we are going to run into resource trouble very soon. When oil production starts to fall and consumption increases, it's going to be a bumpy ride downhill.

World oil production is starting to peak right now and look at the global conflict it is causing... Are people willing to burn our last few years of cheap oil so they can have a few holidays? Does nobody realise we need that oil to make food and medicine? Can anybody justify that?

Yes we need to make travel more fuel-efficient, and do much less of it, but nobody is going to take it seriously if we're talking about molecules of CO2 which may or may not be entirely responsible for the observed global warming.

so, we have to develop more ground based alternatives to air travel, bring back the Orient express for the modern times i say ! French super trains would make quick work of that trip and i think it will be far more enjoyable then air travel and more beneficial too.

I love traveling but hate airplanes

  • 164.
  • At 12:55 PM on 26 May 2007,
  • Giles Halton wrote:

John Gordon - comment 22

Finally someone has used a bit of sense and not jumped onto government and political buzz words. England has been through times of extreme cold and tropical warmth many times in it's history, dating back far beyond the civilisation of man. Carbon dating has proven that the climate has changed many times, but no-one seems to be bothered that this has happened without the use of planes and cars.

The planet is a complex thing with events such as the magnetic polar shift beginning in the last few years (magnetic north is now 50 miles south of where it used to be - it's another cyclitic event). Seasonal shifts which now give us snow in feb/mar, April showers in May, and Summer still in September. These are all things that the planet has been through before and can again.

I'm not saying give the carbon footprint two fingers, but don't let it rule your life. 2 years ago I doubt the majority of people complaining about it now had ever even heard about it. It just seems to be another thing we can all panic about.

  • 165.
  • At 01:21 PM on 26 May 2007,
  • Brian Roberts wrote:

I love it when people with no technical background try to come up with ideas to solve an engineering problem (sarcasm). As a recently graduated aerospace engineer, I can see how many of these comments are INCREDIBLY misguided. The space shuttle uses hydrogen and oxygen fuel tanks for its launches, so no carbon dioxide is produced. Using blimps for global travel?! Unless you want to slow down the global economy drastically, the drag created by the blimp at speeds anywhere near those of current jets will be far greater than that of the jets meaning they need more thrust, which means more fuel spent. Getting people earth conscious is good as it will pressure the airlines to use the newest, cleanest, most efficient technology available. Beyond that all we can do is wait for some groups of engineers to come up with something new. But beleive me when I say, "Don't worry about that part", there's a lot of smart people working on it.

  • 166.
  • At 02:19 PM on 26 May 2007,
  • s madge wrote:

With most major Problems in life, they are generally solved by your scientist, engineers ,or people with inventive minds. In order to achieve these aims costs a lot of money and time. Maybe the time is not a luxury we have so much of but the money is not a problem at all. Just keep reminding yourselves every time I go on a plane the sheriff of Nottingham(Gordon Brown) has put in place an airport tax for everyone to pay, so no excuses put all our money back into company’s that will research the air pollution problem. It is absolutely outrageous that the money is put back in the coffers and wasted on self gratification projects, that won’t change a dam thing, apart from masking a few economical figures, reassuring the people, that he is a great Chancellor, but if that is the best these people can do, for the environment, then stop bleating on about Carbon emissions, and enjoy your ‘Holliday’

  • 167.
  • At 02:55 PM on 26 May 2007,
  • Peter (Northampton) wrote:

>165. At 01:21 PM on 26 May 2007, >Brian Roberts wrote:
>I love it when people with no >technical background try to come up >with ideas to solve an engineering >problem (sarcasm). As a recently >graduated aerospace engineer, I can >see how many of these comments are >INCREDIBLY misguided. The space >shuttle uses hydrogen and oxygen >fuel tanks for its launches, so no >carbon dioxide is produced.

Well, Robin was half right but Brian (as an aerospace graduate) should know better.

The main rocket motor of an Arianne 5 does only use oxygen and hydrogen however, Arriane 5 also uses solid propellant booster rockets similar to those used on the Space Shuttle.

The solid boosters on the Space Shuttle use ammonium-perchlorate (a particularly nasty substance) amongst other solid materials. The two solid boosters on the Space Shuttle account for 83% of the takeoff thrust for the space shuttle.

I never suggested that rockets/rocket motors produce carbon dioxide but from the angle of pollution into the atmosphere, ammonium-perchlorate is a great start.

As there are some here who seem to know, I would like to tap into the collective intellectual resource being brought to bear to help me with a question.

For a while I have been perhaps a tad less than fair to one Mr. R Branson in having doubts on his claimed green campaigns - towing planes to take-off (did that ever happen?), biofuel-powered planes (could that ever happen?) and £25M eco-prizes (does that include waiving the rights to profit sharing?) - especially when one of his highest profile current extravaganzas seems to be sending rich tourists into space atop what I had thought to be a massive column of greenhouse gasses.

Now it seems that I may have been unjust, and it's all 'just' (I have to presume there's a smidge of energy in the production, and possibly a tad of pollution still involved in the combustion) oxygen and hydrogen, though I also do recall steam to be considered a greenhouse gas.

We have a most helpful earlier offering as regards Ariane, but can anyone enlighten me as to what other space borne efforts, including Virgin Galactic, actually do consume and exhaust?

  • 169.
  • At 04:02 PM on 26 May 2007,
  • Peter (Northampton) wrote:

In answer to 168

Virgin Galactic will use a hybrid rocket motor which may contain any of the following:
Nitrous Oxide
Liquid Oxygen
Liquid Flourine
Nitric Acid
Dinitrogen Tetroxide
Metal Hydride

and possibly others. Unfortunately I haven't a clue what these might generate as an exhaust output. Apparently the burn time of a hybrid rocket motor is less than 90 seconds so perhaps the volume of pollution being emitted might not be very large.

  • 170.
  • At 06:14 PM on 26 May 2007,
  • Joanne wrote:

To Max in comment 136 - I'd love to join the MHC also!!! First class would be nice, but alas, I am unemployed, might have to be Easyjet, unless you have your own plane?
Actually I have a fetish for airline pilots (any airline pilots on here)?

So I fly a lot simply in the hope of meeting a pilot, I can't give up flying yet! I don't drive a car, have any kids and I recycle, so I think I've earned myself a few pleasure flights.

  • 171.
  • At 06:19 PM on 26 May 2007,
  • danny wrote:

I wish people would stop using the term "carbon neutral." Nothing on the planet can ever be carbon neutral! Animals and humans breathe out CO2 and fart out gases, anything built by humans creates CO2 in the process, even the oh-so green bicycle! A better term would be "low carbon."
Unless we somehow evolve to be anaerobic, we will always produce some level of CO2!
BTW emissions free aeroplanes have been around for decades - they're called gliders.
To all of you praising airships - they can't fly above the weather like planes can - would you fancy being stuck in a strong gale in a flimsy airship?

  • 172.
  • At 06:23 PM on 26 May 2007,
  • Helen Williams wrote:

All this carbon footprint hysteria was actually rather amusing until the government cottoned on to way a way of getting loads of cash from us and promptly slapped tax increases on flights and petrol. When China, india and the USA all give up their power stations, love of manufacturing and so on, I'll give up my 4x4 and frequent flyer card.

  • 173.
  • At 03:22 AM on 27 May 2007,
  • Anthony Jackson wrote:

I'm sick hearing about 'carbon footprints'. I'd like to plant a leather-booted size 11 up the backside of whoever came up with that one.

On the plus side, Richard Branson is hoping to return Concorde to the skies - hooray!!!!

  • 174.
  • At 03:35 AM on 27 May 2007,
  • Barbara Jones wrote:

Maybe there are too many short haul and low cost flights, but I agree that air travel is being very unfairly targeted right now. My husband is an airline pilot and is fed up with the constant negative publicity aimed at aeroplanes and those who use them. Going on a cruise is one of the most environmentally unfriendly things you can do - ships spew out tons of harmful gases and cruise ships especially, dump their waste out at sea. I went on a cruise many years ago and the volume of wasted food was staggering.

Trains aren't carbon neutral either - they also burn fuel! High speed ferries are also extremely inefficient in terms of fuel consumption. It's actually better to take a flight in a turboprop instead of a hi speed ferry crossing, but how come ferries never get criticism from green groups?

Low cost airlines in the UK use modern, cleaner aircraft compared with those in third world countries. But these poorer countries depend on air travel and should be given financial incentives to make them switch to more efficient aircraft.

I'd like to know how much pollution has been caused by the war in Iraq - no chance of finding that out, is there?

  • 175.
  • At 11:38 AM on 27 May 2007,
  • Chris S wrote:

#60 #165 #167 I like this debate, because it shows how engineers do not consider the economics of their engineering solutions. Producing hydrogen today requires you to either use a great deal of electricity or release alot carbon into the atmosphere. Was the electricity produced from renewables? If it was, somewhere else in the system, someone had to forgo this clean energy and emit carbon to say, heat their house.

The point is that, just like with electric cars, it is only at the point of "consumption" that a hydrogen propellant appears carbon neutral, somewhere along the line energy was required. Unless you found a novel way to produce this energy in the first place, Joule for Joule it probably produces more co2 than petrol, because the overall process is less efficient. The same argument goes for everything.

It is precisely because of such complex cause and effect that communist plan economies don't work. (Ie, if everyone just does their bit, it will NOT be all right). Yet everyone is busy trying to figure out what their bit should be, calculating their personal carbon footprints and setting up windmills on their roofs. They don't stand a chance if two rocket scientists can't figure it out.

We have a wonderful mechanism that has proved itself much more efficient than this random planning and taxes guided by pseudo-science and fear, and it's called the market: Charge for the emissions, all emissions, and nothing but the emissions. Control the overall level by price or volume, but control it vigorously. Charge at source, ie, per ton of coal, petrol, gas. It's boring, but it works.

And then forget about windmills, recycling, and switching off the little red light on your TV. Forget about taxes and jet-guilt. Pay for your carbon and get on with your life.

  • 176.
  • At 02:01 AM on 28 May 2007,
  • Lucario wrote:

never mind how many flights there are, there are too many people full stop!
Myself, I never had children and don't own a car so don't see why I should feel guilty about my 2 well-earned foreign holidays a year.
BTW, I own a private pilot's license, and consider my small, 2 seater Cessna to be a lot more efficient than the 3 4x4s my neighbour owns.

  • 177.
  • At 02:15 AM on 28 May 2007,
  • Chris Hastings wrote:

To the comments made by pilot-lover Joanne - I'm a first officer for a major UK airline - at the risk of getting sacked, I'm up for joining "the Club" as we flight crew call it, whenever you are! I look pretty good in my uniform!

This topic in general has been interesting to read though, and I'm glad Ethical man has started this debate. We've heard a lot of negative comments about air travel recently and I think it's time for a fairer, more balanced debate. The aviation industry is well aware of its impact on the climate and many airlines/aircraft builders around the globe have signed up to new schemes to develop more efficient engines, and hopefully an engine capable of running on a low carbon fuel.

A combustion-free jet fuel will not only be good for the planet, but safer, should there be an accident. kerosene is highly flammable, and horrendous fires have resulted in past air disasters.

Would be nice to see some documentaries and debates promoting these new greener developments in aviation as well as showing the positive results that air travel has brought us, instead of the constant "flying is unethical/all planes must be banned" hue and cry. Ever increasing tax on flying or an outright ban solves nothing at all.

We live in a fast moving world, and we can't just suddenly ground every plane and ban every car - the global economy would grind to a halt, poorer countries people would suffer the most. We all need to work together and develop alternatives to fossil fuels. If we were capable of sending man to the moon, I'm confident we can develop clean fuels.

  • 178.
  • At 01:36 AM on 29 May 2007,
  • jenny wrote:

Forget all this bashing of air travel - what Ethical Man should really be highlighting is the meat industry. If everyone on the planet adopted a vegan diet, we could cut our emissions ten times more than grounding every single plane.

Flying isn't unethical and it has been unfairly demonised.
Eating animal produce is what's truly unethical. I have been vegan since I was 8, and urge you all to switch to a vegan diet.

Keep flying and don't feel guilty - don't eat meat!

  • 179.
  • At 02:15 AM on 29 May 2007,
  • Janine wrote:

I am sick of the gush of incredibly boring environmental news, carbon footprint etc. etc. in fact its the biggest turn off for me on the news I instantly turn over.
But it does have an impact. I wanted to book my family to go to Sharm el Sheik this year but a combined £700 environmental air tax put the Kybosh on that and made me hate Brown even more than I did!
So it's good old Majorca for us this year.

  • 180.
  • At 05:09 PM on 30 May 2007,
  • semi-ethical woman wrote:

Global warming does exist, and CO2 emissions should be stopped but air travel accounts for only a fraction of our emissions and should be left alone. Modern jets operated by budget airlines are modern efficient and very often fuller than others. If you want to cut CO2 use, turn out the light when you're not in a room and walk/use public transport more often. Don't take away ordinary people's ability to see the world, it's a beautiful place.

  • 181.
  • At 01:30 AM on 01 Jun 2007,
  • Lianne from Bolton wrote:

I never forget the first time I flew on a plane, it was back in 1988 and I was flying from Majorca. I was only 6 and I thought it was simply awesome! I still get the same thrill when I'm on a plane and it takes off - find it amazing how they stay up in the air! I'd be really sad if I couldn't fly anymore, even in these days of terrorist scares, delays and DVT, I still enjoy my one flight a year!
I think rather than always criticizing one thing (in this case air travel) we should be focusing our attentions on other carbon hungry things, such as deforestation, overpopulation, meat production, cars and housing.

  • 182.
  • At 11:26 PM on 01 Jun 2007,
  • 757pilot wrote:

Firstly, my apologies to Ethical Man, as my post has nothing whatsoever to do with the excellent topic featured.
I simply wish to know what is the enduring fascination with joining the mile high club? In all my years as a pilot, I'm still perplexed!!! Some of you posters on here - would be curious to hear your opinions!

  • 183.
  • At 11:27 PM on 01 Jun 2007,
  • ALISON wrote:

I'm not a scientist and don't fully understand the constant news hype I hear each day on TV. One minute the world is going to end, the next minute it's not as bad as we thought. I'm getting very confused by all these conflicting reports on MMCC.
I live near Manchester Airport, and whilst the noise can be a problem to many, it doesn't bother me. My husband works as a baggage handler there and a lot of our neighbours also work at the airport. The airport provides young people with many job opportunities so I would support expansion. Air travel is also a very safe way to travel, and I hope the industry is able to overcome the problem of harmful emissions, but I'm still undecided on the whole MMCC thing.

  • 184.
  • At 08:25 PM on 02 Jun 2007,
  • eddy gray wrote:

whatever the comments lodged in this blog there is a serious element/consideration missing, most airline users live relatively distant from the airport particularly GLASGOW which is one of a few airports entrenced in an urban area and have absolutly no real consideration for communities which have to endure the deafening noise levels emmited from flightpaths.SO hear is my question WOULD YOU CONSIDER PAYING A LOCAL TAX WHICH COULD BE USED IN SOME COMPENSATION PACKAGE FOR THOSE AFFECTED BY NOISE BLIGHT ANSWERS PLEASE ON THE BACK OF YOUR FREQUENT FLYER CARDS

  • 185.
  • At 12:45 PM on 04 Jun 2007,
  • Pauline wrote:

I quite agree that we should rid the world of the overly comfortable and space-taking airline seating for the rather well-off. Flying does not have to be a luxury experience - it should be a means to an end. If more execs had to fly coach class I am sure we would see a remarkable reduction in the number of flights they take and an increase in more eco-friendly technology such as video-conferencing etc. Currently the attitude seems to be that if you can afford to travel 'Big Fat Seat Class' it's OK, but it really isn't. Call me a cynic but, of course, the people who absolutely do not want to reduce these services are the airlines - who continually expand their high-priced options at the expense of the already very cramped coach class - and who stand to lose huge revenues, as well as seeing it proven that there is no need at all for the investment into further terminals at UK airports. Sadly I think that the airline industry will always be one of those most at odds with the good of the planet.

  • 186.
  • At 10:51 PM on 12 Jun 2007,
  • plane_lover christine wrote:

It's about time we got things into perspective here. the current level of hysteria over global warming in general/carbon emissions has reached absurd levels, it's become more than an obsession but a fanatical religion. Unfortunately, the Government have sided with the eco-fanatics and are slowly making all our lives unbearable, whilst not helping the planet all that much.
I feel sorry for our hard working airline pilots, cabin crews and aviation workers, who not only have to deal with OTT security rules, irate, arrogant passengers and congested airports, but also the barrage of criticism from green groups, nannying government ministers and the Press. I have a PPL and work for an airline and I enjoy my job immensely; I get very angry when i read comments such as "flying is unethical" No it is not. The corrupt governments in African nations who get our donated cash and keep it for themselves whilst their people starve and die of AIDs is what's immoral, as is the illegal logging in Indonesia - why aren't Bono/Geldof/Gore et al campaigning against these issues istead of always putting the blame on us long-suffering taxpayers?

  • 187.
  • At 10:56 PM on 12 Jun 2007,
  • Rufus wrote:

Somebody from friends of the earth claimed that instead of flying to Spain, you can take the train instead.
Erm, get real. i live in Scotland, and why would I want to spend several days just getting to my holiday destination when I can fly there in a few hours at a fraction of the price? Until they invent trains that go as fast as a 737 and with fares under £50, I'll continue to fly, thankyou.
what gives these green lot the right to tell me how to live my life anyway? If I want to fly, I will, regardless of how much CO2 is produced. it bugs me that people keep talking about "mother Earth" and how we're "killing the planet" - the planet is not a person. It's survived for several billion years so far and it isn't going to suddenly perish.

  • 188.
  • At 10:59 PM on 12 Jun 2007,
  • bennyboy wrote:


  • 189.
  • At 11:22 PM on 12 Jun 2007,
  • Wilf wrote:

Lianne from Bolton - I also share your nostalgia for childhood flights. I still get that rush of excitement during a takeoff, oddly enough. Planes are like Marmite - you either love them or loathe them. However, I think, a far more important issue with planes is the noise they make. Much as I love flying, I'd hate to live under a flightpath. it would be great if they could build planes with nearly silent engines that take off vertically - thus reducing the need to build more runways!


  • 190.
  • At 04:39 PM on 13 Jun 2007,
  • Martyn wrote:

Rufus - I'm a member of Friends of the Earth and I wasn't aware I could tell you what to do.

However perhaps you can you tell me why it is right that you will pay £50 to do much more damage to our climate by flying on holiday, than I will for a far less carbon-intensive overland journey which will cost several hundred pounds? That is the daft situation we now find ourselves in - and it is Government that should be changing it.

I realise it is pretty difficult to stop you having a holiday - but if you have alternatives and choose not to use them I think it is fair you pay for the damage you create.

Finally - I'm not interested in saving a lump of rock which will of course be here whether we have global warming or not. I am interested in trying to prevent the suffering of many millions of people who rely on that lump of rock for food, water and life - and climate change threatens to make that increasingly difficult for many of them. But I can't force you to care, any more than I can force you to holiday nearer home. You'll have to look at the evidence and make your own mind up.

  • 191.
  • At 03:47 AM on 14 Jun 2007,
  • Latias wrote:

Pilot Chris Hastings - could I have your phone number? You sound like my kind of guy!!!

  • 192.
  • At 03:49 AM on 14 Jun 2007,
  • Len wrote:

leave planes alone, they're not the problem here, the number of people on the planet is the problem. People need to stop having babies coz there's only so many humans the planet can sustain!

  • 193.
  • At 02:47 PM on 14 Jun 2007,
  • Gavin Mcintyre wrote:

What is this nonsense about carbon emissions causing global warning?
Have you not heard about the ICE AGES?
These cyclical periods of Global Cooling and Warming ( one of which we are now in) were not caused by carbon emissions of cars or power stations, but by the variations in energy out put from the Sun.Why not put a Tax on sunshine?

Other causes of climate change may be cyclical. Unfortunately man's contribution is just UP which is why we need to do something about it.

First madness to stop is the active promotion of flying with ads for cheap flights. Stopping that would stem the expected explotion in long haul.

I wonder how many local authorities have climate change strategies and at the same time rent space for easyjet/ba/ryanair etc

  • 195.
  • At 05:15 PM on 21 Jun 2007,
  • John Russell wrote:

I think the unsustainable nature of flying is but a single element in the multi-faceted dilemma humans now face.

Our impact on the climate is only one of three, major, interconnected problems which will - literally - jeopardise civilisation. These problems have been mentioned by some individual contributors to these comments and they are 1) Climate Change; 2) Peak Oil; 3) Overpopulation. Humans have never faced a potential catastrophe on the scale they now face through short-termism, self-interest, and a lack of imagination - and we've no-one to blame but ourselves.

Collectively we need to stand back and see the big picture. In the next fifty years or so, many life forms on this planet are in for a very tough time. I imagine a time, very soon, when we'll envy our medieval forbears their ability to be self-sufficient. I just hope that what will happen, happens sooner rather than later. That way we can understand what we've done and then all pull together to do what humans do best: overcome adversity.

To the airline pilot Mr Hastings - I'd fly with you any day!!!!
Impossible to give up flying when such gorgeous guys in uniform are flying dem planes!!!

  • 197.
  • At 02:38 AM on 24 Jun 2007,
  • fed up overtaxrd Brit wrote:

Every day now we are being deluged with news of the latest proposals from our politicians about how to save the planet from global warming. We must have 'a new world order' to combat climate change, Gordon Brown proclaimed yesterday. We must have strict 'green' limits on air travel, proposes David Cameron, so that no one can afford to take more than one flight a year.

A fifth of all our energy must be 'green' by 2020, says the EU, even though there is no chance of such an absurd target being met. We must have 'green' homes, 'green' cars, 'green' fuel, even microchips in our rubbish bins to enforce 'green' waste disposal.

Have these politicians any longer got the faintest idea what they are talking about? Do they actually look at the hard, practical facts before they rush to compete with each other in this mad musical-chairs of gesture politics?
I'm just about fed up to the back teeth of "green this, green that" It started off with attacking air travel, now it's spread to just about every walk of life. Everyone's jumping on the bandwagon. myself, I've had enough, and I'm becoming anti-green.

the thing that "gets my gost" is how often i watch or listen to a climate chaos debate , whether it be during live earth of other , and the focus of attention is soley given over to transport , changing lightbulbs , and turning your tele off rather than leaving it on standby , and oh , maybe boiling less water in a kettle, when it was clearly resulted in "ethical man goes vegan" that more harmfull green house gases including co2 and methane are a result of animal farming than all the modes of transport in the world put together , thats all planes , cars , atrain , buses and skedoos , the lot , so yes i think the flyin issue is important , but over rated , and the vegan issue so poorly discussed and covered generally

  • 199.
  • At 01:43 AM on 16 Jul 2007,
  • pilotgirl wrote:

Any hunky SINGLE airline pilots on here? plz join my forum
plane-mad dot com.

planes are being unfairly demonised and it makes me sad.
Airline pilots are absolutely gorgeous - shame they're always unreachable in their locked and guarded cokpits thanks to 9/11 so I gotta try to meet them away from the airport!

  • 200.
  • At 01:54 AM on 16 Jul 2007,
  • Ed wrote:

You guys on here all bashing airplane travel - you'll be forced to eat humble pie a few years from now. A project is being developed that will see planes engines being powered by hydroelectricity, that is, the fuel tanks will contain nothing but water, with electrodes connected to the engines. The water generates the electricity and this powers the engines.
Result - emissions free aircraft, also a lot safer too. jet A1 fuel extremely flammable as we know.

Don't believe me? It'll go public very soon and the planes will have the last laugh.

  • 201.
  • At 04:17 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • lorraine leeming wrote:

To the 757pilot in comment 182 - firstly, the enduring popularity of the mile high club due mainly to the "thrill" or shame - of being caught, being in a confined space and the lower air pressure you get on a plane. Also I believe some people in general have a fetish for planes, though not myself I have to say.

To ethical man - good points raised here, I think flying will always be an emotive subject. however in my personal opinion I think we're making far too much fuss about air travel when there are far more pressing climate issues to worry about, such as rising sea levels, deforestaion, etc, planes are just small beer really, give aviation a break!

  • 202.
  • At 05:21 PM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • Peter Hughes wrote:

Accompanied by my family, I shall soon be taking a long-haul flight. However, I shall not be paying someone else to carbon offset for me. Instead I shall continue to do it myself: grow my own fruit and veggies (zero food miles), plant and nurture my own trees, prepare solely vegan meals, use only low-energy light-bulbs, and free/re-cycle practically everything. I do not intend to imprison myself in HMP UK. However, if I spend the carbon by travelling, then it is up to me to reduce my own carbon footprint in other ways.

  • 203.
  • At 01:06 AM on 27 Jul 2007,
  • Jason Hughes wrote:

I see that some green campaigners are planning to disrupt thousands of people's holiday flights at Heathrow in August by holding a protest at the airport. Just what will this achieve exactly? Nothing except incurring the wrath of a load of very irate and stressed travelers, not to mention putting a strain on our already over-stretched police force, thus increasing the security risk.

Why do these green campaigners never offer to help do something useful instead of a stupid protest? Like working together to help develop an alternative to jet fuel or a plane that runs on batteries?
Heathrow Airport isn't that pleasant an airport and I'm glad I don't need to use it but disrupting thousands of people's hard earned holidays is hardly going to make one iota of difference to the planet.

  • 204.
  • At 01:08 AM on 27 Jul 2007,
  • Debbie Bolton wrote:

I don't see what's so bad about flying when the likes of China and India build new coal fired power stations every week and cows emit more methane than powered transport!

BAA are better than any green group at dissuading people from flying. Over the past decade they've gradually turned Heathrow, Gatwick et al into a nightmare for passengers. 9/11 can't be blamed on all the current woes endured by passengers. Years of bad management by BAA have left UK airports outdated and unprepared for the new security challenges. Instead they're only interested in getting you to spend your money in airport shops.
Well done BAA, you've put me off flying from Heathrow.

  • 205.
  • At 01:25 AM on 27 Jul 2007,
  • dogbyte wrote:

I don't know much about planes but I was just wondering, if it might be possible to power a plane by rechargeable batteries like those G Wiz cars? Granted, they'd need to be a lot more powerful batteries and a big jet would require a back-up fuel source of kerosene should anything fail. We might need to sacrifice some of the speed too, so maybe electric planes would be better for short haul flights. Also, is it possible for planes to glide during landings, if there isn't severe crosswinds.wind shear etc with engines switched off? This would cut down on noise pollution as well as fuel emissions.

I just think there's so much more we can do to make planes green instead of always demonising air travel. It's all very well keep harping on about how bad flying allegedly is but no credible solution is ever suggested - it's either higher passenger taxes or an endless run of anti-flying/carbon footprint propaganda printed in newspapers and aired on every news bulletin. however as it shown, these measures haven't put that many people off flying. The recent floods and heavy rain have only encouraged more people to fly abroad. People will continue to fly and air travel isn't going to stop growing so why doesn't the Government promote research into building greener planes?

  • 206.
  • At 02:42 AM on 27 Jul 2007,
  • Mikey B from London wrote:

I find it irritating the way that people always talk of Concorde with such fondness and how wonderful a plane it was, and then they go and bash Ryanair and Easyjet as being the scum of the Earth and polluting the planet.

Not having the luck to be born into a rich family, flying on Concorde was something I could never afford to do.
Yet it annoys me when I take a cheap flight to Spain on Ryanair to read some smug middle-class socialist claiming that cheap flights should be banned. that's right. Mustn't let low income people experience what the BA club class lot have taken for granted for decades, must we? can make do with the trains (which might I add are as much as a joke as trying to cope with the queues at Gatwick, and that's when they actually turn up.
Concorde was a nice looking plane yes, but one of the most polluting, noisiest and most expensive. No wonder only rich and famous could afford to use it. It was never profitable because the masses were denied from using it and its fuel consumption was excessive. Hardly kind to the planet, yet it was never demonised the way that Ryanair and other low cost airlines are. Greens might like to know that Ryanair uses the most modern, fuel efficient aircraft. Can't say the same for BA.

This greenwash seems to me to be a thinly-veiled attempt to restrict travel for the majority. Meanwhile celebs and politicians continue to do as they please, safe in their little ivory towers, preaching at the hard working, low earning public who are denied such luxuries, to stop flying and driving. Always the poor that come off worst - same old story. It happened under Thatcher and under Robber Brown it's happening again.

  • 207.
  • At 02:48 AM on 27 Jul 2007,
  • Robyn wrote:

10 years of living under Nu Labour and B liar has put me off Britain for life so can you blame me for flying as far away as possible twice a year?

  • 208.
  • At 02:56 AM on 27 Jul 2007,
  • Moomin wrote:

I'm sick to the back teeth of reading articles about air travel in general. Whether it's about airport queues, security alerts, 9/11, carbon emissions from planes, airport expansion or whatever - rarely a day goes by without a news article about flying. Before 9/11 I was only dimly aware of the existence of airports. We seem to have developed this obsession with focusing on air travel as the root of all evil and I just think it's time we adopted a more balanced view.

BTW I had planned to holiday in the UK, however the holiday park is flooded, the trains didn't turn up and I can't drive so in the end I booked a week in Ibiza. Sorry Earth. I promise to beat myself with birch twigs, worship at the Church of Al Gore and inhale petrol fumes for a month upon my return.

  • 209.
  • At 08:27 AM on 29 Jul 2007,
  • justmeblueberry wrote:

thing is , i think people who hold debates about climate change do put the flying by plain thing wrongly at the top of the agenda , as ethical clearly points out in ethical man goes vegan that flying clearly isnt the main culprit for climate change , animal farming IS

  • 210.
  • At 12:24 PM on 29 Jul 2007,
  • Earl Bramley-Howard wrote:

Unfortunately if you simply cut engine emissions but increase numbers of aircraft and journeys, you do nothing to reduce or redress the problem of high altitude pollution, or radiative forcing as you call it (not to mention the aviation industry now trying to curtail our 'rights' in persuit of greater and greater profits).
The whole issue is like asking the tobbacco companies to ensure that they do something about the dangers of tobacco smoking. I seem to remember they came up with low tar cigarettes didn't they?!

  • 211.
  • At 06:37 PM on 29 Jul 2007,
  • hannah giles wrote:

Funny how there's not been any calls for the Government to ban the Red Bull Air Race, in which had loads of small planes buzzing over central London at low altitudes all day, whilst spewing out smoke trails, yes ordinary people going on holiday via Ryanair or First Choice airlines get demonised for polluting. Hmmmm......anyone smell hypocrisy here?

Comment 199 - pilotgirl, I am single airline pilot, but I'm living proof that not all pilots are tall dark and handsome! But if you're still interested....

Comment 200 - this is the first I've heard of a jet engine project regarding hydroelectricity. I tried Googling it but could find no information whatsoever. Can anyone confirm or deny whether research into this is actually happening as I would be very interested.

I agree with justmeblueberry though and I think it's about time the aviation emissions debate was put into perspective. Some good points raised here and I'm glad I'm not the only one who's aware of the massive damage created by shipping, meat production and deforestation.

However can I be brutally honest here? The greenest thing any of us can do is to not have children. If you want to be a parent, please consider adopting some of the many thousands of children already in care and in need of loving homes, don't add to the already excess population. I chose not to have children and I drive a hybrid car. Therefore I don't feel guilty in the fact that I am an airline pilot, however the burden of plane emissions isn't for pilots to sort out but aircraft manufacturers.


  • 213.
  • At 06:53 PM on 29 Jul 2007,
  • Kelly wrote:

It makes sense to develop alternatives to kerosene for aircraft. I love planes and flying; currently I'm 17, but studying to become a commercial pilot one day, but I'm conscious of the emissions produced by commercial aviation. There's also been reports of flight crews breathing toxic fumes that enter the cabin from aircraft engines so we really need to move away from fossil fuels in planes. I think this will be achieved but as with everything a lot of research and testing will be required and is the aviation industry prepared to take the big leap from oil to alternative fuels? Currently there's a problem of biofuel freezing at high altitudes; maybe planes could be flown at lower altitudes, but then there's the problem of weather to consider. pros and cons with everything, but I'm confident that there'll be a breakthrough - hopefully when I become an airline pilot.

  • 214.
  • At 07:02 PM on 29 Jul 2007,
  • O RLY wrote:

I don't agree with George Monbiot's beliefs that the plane should be consigned to the scrapheap. I think a lot of new jobs could be created for talented, young scientists and engineers if the government promoted schemes to develop jet engines to be powered by biofuel/electricity or whatever a green fuel is. also how about research into developing quieter engines. for me, the thing I hate about planes most is noise.

I don't think anything useful is achieved by waving banners at heathrow Airport or always singling out low cost airlines for criticism, when this is something that affects the entire industry.

Aviation has a lot of benefits as well as negative impacts. For example, how would food aid be transported to places like Africa and Pakistan after an earthquake? Also don't forget RAF helicopters and firefighting planes that are very useful. We need planes but we just need to re-invent them a bit!

  • 215.
  • At 08:56 PM on 02 Aug 2007,
  • steve johnson wrote:

The main problem is there are 6.5 billion of us and growing.All of us want a better life and if you say to the third world that they cannot have our standard of living they,not surprisingly,are going to resent it.The politicians cannot or dare not grasp the population nettle.

  • 216.
  • At 10:52 AM on 04 Aug 2007,
  • Matt Munro wrote:

I think a third reason why flying is singled out is that many people (incorrectly) assume that most flying is for frivolous reasons such as holidays or stag weekends, when the reality is that business accounts for the majority of air travel.
It's not just the flying that's damaging either, the carbon foorprint from manufacturing and maintaining aircraft is huge, as is the environmental impact of airport infrastructure (just think of the number of car journeys taken by staff commuting to work at Heathrow).
The short answer to the question "can flying ever be ethical" is no.

  • 217.
  • At 06:25 PM on 04 Aug 2007,
  • peter graves wrote:

Has flying been unfairly demonised - yes

there are so many things on this planet that are far more unethical than flying but the government picks a nice easy target because it wants to be seen to be doing something.

Meanwhile the population grows and grows and grows...

I laugh when climate doom-mongers always talk about how we have to go green for future generations.

Well if we all stopped having kids then we wouldn't need to worry about future generations, would we?
We've had a good innings maybe it's time to die out gradually.

  • 218.
  • At 12:57 AM on 06 Aug 2007,
  • andy wrote:


i am 24 and i have Down's syndrome. I work at Heathrow airport and i love it because it is my first ever proper job. i work with many different races of people and other disabled people and have made many friends. i think people are always quick to complain about Heathrow but working here has been helpful to me and people like me, please think about the benefits of the airport as well as the bad things.
To Matt Munro I cannot drive and i get to the airport by using the train which is greener than a car. many other workers use the train and tube or bicycle. i love planes very much and i like the enviroment too i hope we can make planes greener.


  • 219.
  • At 04:04 AM on 06 Aug 2007,
  • Quint wrote:

I think this topic should be re-named:

Seriously, this is overkill, give us a break from this climate change hype, it's like a religion.

And no I have no intention of ever giving up flying/driving/my patio heater/ there.

  • 220.
  • At 11:07 PM on 06 Aug 2007,
  • Natasha wrote:

Well done for BAA stopping these climate fundamentalists from their selfish public spectacle at Heathrow.
No one is going to stop flying just because they take it on themselves to be our moral guardians. All action (in this modern world), uses some carbon, even bicycles the steel is forged somewhere.
Climate change is now generally, accepted and needs a thoughtful approach not a stupid stunt.

  • 221.
  • At 12:10 AM on 07 Aug 2007,
  • Jack wrote:

Of course flying has been unfairly demonised, in particular, passenger flying. My wife and I are fairly green, working at home, insulating well and growing a lot of our own food that doesn't have to come hundreds of miles gaining layers and layers of non-re-useable packing on the way. If everybody who has a garden did that instead of growing environmentally useless flowers and grass, that would help to start with. No doubt a good number of people who could grow food will be away disrupting some poor soul's hard earned family holiday, their ego and determination boosted by nothing more than the strength of numbers in the protest group. We take one or two fights per year and will continue to do so and while we do, no doubt our UK, EU and USA engineers and designers will continue to reduce the carbon emissions of the aircraft. Meanwhile many thoughtless protesters buy more exotic and travelled foods with increased packaging as well as cheap manufactured goods from the other side of the world.

As well as the selfishness of their disruptive action, it is unconstitutional. We have a democratic system and if somebody wants to get their point of view across without bullying tactics, they should stand for election on a platform of their beliefs. Peaceful protest is one thing, but diverting the resouces of BAA away from protecting their passengers and speeding them through the airport is not peaceful, it is downright anti-social, aggressive and dangerous.

We have a capable army that should, if need be, be used to reinforce the police forces to protect and ensure the smooth running of Heathrow which is of major national and economic importance to us all. We are being far to soft if we allow the protests to go ahead in a way that diverts any resources at all or allows any disruption.

We shouldn't stand for it.

  • 222.
  • At 11:56 PM on 10 Aug 2007,
  • Martin Grover wrote:

For the eco-lefties, it's not really about pollution or carbon footprints. It's about stopping ordinary working people from going about their business, having holidays, getting proper rubbish collection and eating the kind of food they want to eat by making all these thing prohibitively expensive through green taxes. That way, only THEY will be able to afford these luxuries, on their fat public sector/city/NGO salaries. It's a new way of keeping Joe Public in his place, enforced by a growing chattering class elite, and it's more obscene than green.

I would bet my bottom dollar that many of the protesters outside Heathrow will be the same people who drive their kids 100 yards to school in a 4x4. Vile, patronising, pious middle class hypocrites.

  • 223.
  • At 02:28 AM on 13 Aug 2007,
  • workingwoman wrote:

I agree with comment 206 and 222 - poor people losing out again. In the 80s I was a single mum with 2 kids, no partner or anyone to help me - no generous benefits and handouts available then. I had to work full time just to get by and I paid full tax and worked hard to pay off the mortgage my ex left me stuck with. Now I'm reasonably well off and approaching retirement age and I'm thinking of travelling the world and I will fly as often as I want to, thank you very much. It makes my blood boil to see the likes of Camp for Climate Change protestors making a song and dance about Heathrow. The taxpaying majority including workers at the airport are the ones paying out so that these lot can make their climate protests. Not all will be idle, workshy idiots with no goal in life except causing civil disobedience, but the majority are. Also students protesting - why don't you concentrate on studying, for heaven's sake, or does being a student simply entail dossing about and making a nuisance of yourself?

Please consider writing an article about how livestock farming/meat production is damaging our planet.
Breeding animals for food is a hundred times more unethical than flying.
Aeroplanes are necessary to keep our economy going and also for tourism in poor countries.
There is NO justification for killing animals in order to feed humans, please go vegan.

  • 225.
  • At 12:12 AM on 14 Aug 2007,
  • Lionel Tiger wrote:

Trains were demonised when they first appeared. However, they became safer, and the technology was tamed and they became a value to society and civilisation. Planes similarly bring great technological solutions that facilitate transport where it is otherwise incredibly problematic. Transport policy should however reflect the best transport solutions to society. Effective transport policy needs to consider all the options available, and apply strategic planning to shape the solutions it should provide. Taken in this context, a Swot analysis results in some interesting conclusions. The strategy should include all considerations, and this should include pollution, social mobility, economic benefit, communication, energy consumption, climate change, pollution, ecological impacts, environmental impacts, and the quality of life of those in close proximity to the means of transport. Traveling across the Atlantic in a plane is quick, safe, and actually highly efficient over the long haul journey. However over short haul journeys trains are able to provide a much more desirable solution than planes. Trains are more efficient, have fewer impacts to the environment and locals, and provide the same transport solutions and benefits to the economy with jobs that planes do. This sort of strategic planning should determine transport policy. The EU Emissions Trading Scheme should include air travel, to encompass transport to make a fair market in emissions. This should result in the formulation of a transport policy that provides the best solutions. A transport policy that fails to provide the best solutions is a failed policy. A transport policy that fails to include the value that trains can provide to transport needs and transport solutions is a failed transport policy.

  • 226.
  • At 12:12 PM on 15 Aug 2007,
  • chris wrote:

Post 65 Lionel Tiger wrote:- "Turboprops are the most noisy engine design. I would not want to live under the flightpath where those planes are continually flying."

Lionel, I have lived (well - worked 8 hours per day) under both Heathrow and London City airport flight paths and I can tell you that turboprops are way quieter than turbofans, with the possible exception of the BA146. Of course, a Concorde taking off would loosen the fillings in your teeth but what a beautiful sight.

  • 227.
  • At 06:17 PM on 18 Aug 2007,
  • paul wrote:

I really do think all this talk about climate change is just a load of carbonollcks.

  • 228.
  • At 06:30 PM on 19 Aug 2007,
  • amir wrote:

I fully support development of greener planes, but it's a shame they're so ugly on the eye.
Concorde was a truly beautiful design, such a shame she wasn't green or quiet.

The A380 is greener and quieter...but what an ugly, boring plane! Doesn't cause a stir amongst seasoned planespotters like myself.

Let's see some real innovation - a solar powered plane that looks like Concorde.

Why has aviation become this global menace all of a sudden? Have a look at shipping for mass tonnes of CO2 emissions. Once again it's just an easy target and something else the 'government' can try to make Joe Bloggs feel guilty about so they can tax us further on it. Taxing aviation fuel will just lead to aircraft 'tanking in' fuel, therefore flying heavier and more in-efficiently. And where has all of the new 'Passenger Tax' gone? Into improving the environment? Improving public transport and transport links? Who knows?

  • 230.
  • At 08:22 PM on 04 Sep 2007,
  • Myfanwy wrote:

The demonising of air travel as being environmentally destructive is ridiculous.

The Government happened to jump on this little bandwagon not so long ago, as it simply saw 'green' issues as the perfect excuse to collect huge tax revenues.

  • 231.
  • At 01:21 PM on 02 Dec 2007,
  • Tim Scott wrote:

The overwhelming problem with flying is that most flights are completely unnecessary. Why do we feel we have the "right" to go on longhaul holidays when we know how damaging the release of ANY carbon into the upper atmosphere is? It does not matter how economical new aircraft are, we do not NEED them.

Many people have in the past enjoyed "leisure activities" that are no longer acceptable in our society - badger-baiting and fox-hunting are just two. If we are to have any hope of reducing our carbon emissions to a worthwhile degree, longhaul, and shorthaul for that matter, holidays will have to become a thing of the past. If you must go somewhere hot for your holiday why not go to the south of France on Eurostar?

  • 232.
  • At 12:13 AM on 04 Dec 2007,
  • Lionel Tiger wrote:

Now the High Speed One rail link and the refurbishment of St Pancras Station has been completed, it should be time to consider the next progressive step. It was arranged to construct High speed one in 1994, shortly after the completion and opening of the Channel Tunnel. High Speed Two should now be the next logical step, bringing high speed rail and the Eurostar to Birmingham, via Oxford, with all the benefits such transport solutions bring. Much more well paid skilled jobs are created in construction, rather than the poorly paid unskilled jobs such as baggage handlers and check-in desk minions of the empires of the airline billionaire 'entrepreneurs'.

So flying can emit less CO2 per 100km than a Toyota Prius, therefore it's green.

Unfortuantely it's the distance covered that's the problem. If you travel 14,000 km then you're going to be a lot of CO2 regardless of how efficiently you've done it.

It's like printing out a hard copy of the internet, but saying "I've used recycled paper so it's green".

The green answer is to choose a destination closer to home.

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