Tuesday, July 26, 2005

UK climate policy and Aviation


The UK has an impressive stance on carbon emissions, it is aiming for a 60% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. This isn't due to altruism or noblesse, but out of self interest, Britain is an island, much of it low lying, we don't want to loose our capital under the waves due to thermal expansion of the seas, or a volume increase from the melting Greenland ice sheet! As The UK`s Chief Scientific advisor, Sir David King, pointed stated " Climate Change is the most severe problem that we face today, more serious even than the threat of terrorism". Tony Blair apparently agrees in a speech last year he referred to climate change as "What I believe to be the worlds greatest environmental challenge".

referring to a report by the Royal commission on Environmental Protection Tony Blair again had all the words, "The RCEP`s report on energy concluded that to make it`s contribution to tackling climate change the UK needed to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions 60% by 2050. This implies a massive change in the way we produce and use energy. We are committed to this change". A conference of the worlds to climatologists met in Exeter at the world renowned Hadley climate centre during 2004, to debate the science that the RCEP report was based on. The 60% reduction target is the global reduction required by 2050 to stabilize carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere at 450ppm, which was at the time expected to result in the global mean temperature increase being limited to 2 degrees Celcisus which is widely taken as a maximum tolerable level of climate change (clearly this level is debatable). In the event it was found that the earth is loosing its ability to act as a carbon sink, i.e isn't removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as quickly as it has hitherto done. The carbon cuts required of developed countries, to allow India and china some scope for development i.e catching up with western consumption patterns in emissions per capita is thierfore aroud 70-80%.

The aviation white paper by the government could therefore be predicted to clamp down on the ever increasing use of aviation, the most carbon intensive activity most people ever do. For example a return trip to Australia uses around 3 tones of carbon per person! Whereas an average car may emit about 6 tones of carbon a year. The scientific board set up to provide reliable climate change information (the IPCC) however state that due to altitude and contrail formation each tone of carbon dioxide emitted by a plain "acts like" 2.7 tones emitted at ground level! Also aviation is by in large a leisure pursuit (3/4 flights) whereas most people need cars to some extent for commuting to work. According to the government white paper, "aviation has increased fivefold over the last 30 years and is projected to be between 2 and 3 times its current level by 2030". So that prediction cant be allowed surely? Well "Britain's continuing success as a place in which to invest and do business depends crucially on the strength of our international transport links" so it starts to look like they are going to go ahead with the building of new airports. However they do state that, "we have recognized that simply building more and more capacity to meet demand would have a major, and unacceptable, environmental impact and would not be a sustainable approach". The governments environmental "watchdog" (the Environmental Audit committee) however disagree with the department for transport (DfT) saying "The aviation white paper actively promotes a huge growth in air travel over the next 30 years", and goes on "The DfT has implicitly adopted a predict and provide approach". So how do the government reconcile their target for 60% reduction in carbon dioxide with the growth in aviation being allowed? They don't! The environmental audit committee find that if emissions increase on the scale predicted by the DfT the UK`s 60% target will be "meaningless and unachievable" suggesting that a 35% decrease would be as good as could be obtained. This is painting a rosy (sic) picture indeed. The reality was recently pointed out in a house of lords paper on energy efficiency that temporarily but justifiably, strayed off-target mentioning the aviation issue "As the house of commons EAC has repeatedly argued, the projected growth in air travel in the coming decades means that emissions from this source...could entirely negate the saving made in other areas"!

In conclusion, I believe that the government is "greenwashing". Undoubtedly it is aware of climate change but does not see it as a central issue. Tony Blair said during a talk only last year "If there is one message I would like to leave with you, and with the British people today it is one of urgency". Apart from the fact we can see a divergence of the governments policy from the track indicative of urgency and commitment, we have another reason not to believe the spin. Lord Whitty, former defra minister of only 2 years gone, is now in the house of lords, and he is not a happy man! In a recent debate on energy efficeincy he expressed his frustration at the ambivalence and general lack of urgency in the governments climate change policy. "My frustration was not because I disagreed with the broad aims of the government policies. My frustration was with the [lack of] priority accorded to the issue [Climate Change] and the [poor] level of co-ordination" I think we know what he means by co-ordination! Not much point carrying out a climate change program at the department for the environment if the department for transport comes along and encourages the airlines to destroy you're achieved emission cuts!
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All the reports used in the preperation of this blog are linked to futher down the page where i mention my intention of writing this article. Please write to youre MP on this one it`s such and important issue! Or if you are in the US why not write to youre elected representative about this.

An interesting radio program about aviation and climate change is here

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4 Comments:

At 7:32 PM, Blogger Calvin Jones said...

FROM THE BBC ENVIRONMENT FORUM
ExcaliburMCC

It seems a lot of people are getting het up over a few gallons of diesel going into a Land Rover.

As these vehicles contribute to 1.8% of pollution, shouldnt we turn our attention to a mode of transport that contributes to over double that?

A Boeng 747 consumes 5 gallons of fuel for every mile travelled. For a trip 3471 miles from London to New York it will have got through 17355 gallons of fuel. Generally, in a commercial jet airplane, there is usually a fairly big difference between the maximum take off weight and the maximum landing weight. For instance, on a Boeing 747 , the maximum take off weight is about 286,800 kg and the maximum landing weight limitation is around 208,600 kg, giving a difference of 78,200 kilograms.A heavy aircraft lands at a higher speed and hence the chances of a brake fire are increased. You also require a longer runway and if you have to abort the landing, the safety margin is reduced where the surrounding terrain are fairly hilly.So, if given a choice, a pilot would jettison any excess fuel prior to executing a normal landing

I think this is a disgusting waste of resources, and think that fogeign air travel should be restricted to business use and those that can prove that they need to do it.

All these people taking their foreign holidays are using it as a status symbol, when we have some of the nicest countryside in the world on our doorstep.

It is the selfish actions of these people that needs to be banned

 
At 9:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Calvin get off the stage, you're embarrassing yourself. A/c *do not* dump excess fuel prior to executing a normal landing. Fuel dumping may be required in an emergency situation, it is a rare event. Aviation contributes 13% of CO2 emissions from all forms of transport, road transport contributes 75%. Both industries will be using more efficient fuel sources and engines in the near future.
There is a lot of cr@p being spouted at the moment regarding global warming, and few people are questioning what they're hearing. This is allowing the "green" industry a free rein while the population is cowed into believeing they have to do something.

 
At 2:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm an engineer and a pilot. Flights are planned so as to be as efficient as possible so as to save weight. Also, the aero industry is probably the only one that would be trying to improve engine technology even if no one had mentioned climate change, as a better engine means less fuel, and thus extra passengers and more profit. I'll leave you with this thought. The article says that an airliner produces 3tons of CO2 per person on a round trip to Australia, and that a car does 6tons in a year. Does the average car do the equivelent to a round trip to Australia every 6 months? I'm not saying that we shouldn't look after the environemt, far from it. But go looking for a better target, stop flogging the aerospace industry when you don't have all the facts.

 
At 2:39 PM, Blogger Calvin Jones said...

I'm an engineer and a pilot. Flights are planned so as to be as efficient as possible so as to save weight. Also, the aero industry is probably the only one that would be trying to improve engine technology even if no one had mentioned climate change, as a better engine means less fuel, and thus extra passengers and more profit. I'll leave you with this thought.


---I agree with this entirely, the problem is that aviation growth is extremely rapid and that this growth is outpacing by far the gains currently made through technology change. I would have no problem with infinte aviation growth if it was all done within a carbon limit...the more innovation the more potential for business growth.


The article says that an airliner produces 3tons of CO2 per person on a round trip to Australia, and that a car does 6tons in a year. Does the average car do the equivelent to a round trip to Australia every 6 months?

---I checked and you are right it does say that. This is clearly wrong. Actually the statement "For example a return trip to Australia uses around 3 tones of carbon per person! Whereas an average car may emit about 6 tones of carbon a year." would have to be the most embarrising thing i have yet written (that i`m aware of). It clearly doesnt make sense. First off these figuers should be talking of co2 equivalent not carbon, secondly it is about right if you swap them around. 6 tonnes co2e for a return trip to Auz, 3 tonnes co2 for a car for a year. I`m not certain that is absoloutely correct but it's pretty close.


I'm not saying that we shouldn't look after the environemt, far from it. But go looking for a better target, stop flogging the aerospace industry when you don't have all the facts.

--I am not flogging the aerospace industry. I wan't to see govornment intervention to limit aviation growth within a carbon budget, this would increase innovation and support aerospace resarch! I am flogging the aviation industry as they are lobbying against such regulation. Hopefully you don't need to know all the facts to criticise something, just be willing to concede mistakes and engage in debate.

 

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