Think before you fly
11th April, 2008
No one believed Big Tobacco could ever be snuffed out - until health warning stickers were made law. If the same principle of science, information and activism were applied to the aviation industry, argues Mark Anslow, the air we breathe could get cleaner yet
In 2006, slightly more than two billion passengers were carried by plane worldwide. The aviation industry is growing at five per cent every year and, once the effect of releasing greenhouse gases at high altitudes is taken into account, is already responsible for close to 10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Even with more efficient engines, the climate change impact of aviation is set to double within 30 years, and if we aim for an 80 per cent cut in CO2 emissions by 2050, air travel will be responsible for 135 per cent of that allowance by mid-century.
The industry is inherently unsustainable, but also immensely popular, with the economics of cheap flights now so favourably skewed that, in April, budget operator Flybe could afford to pay actors to fill its planes in order to avoid a £280,000 penalty for flying with too few passengers.
Faced with a problem of such scale, it is worth remembering that recent history has seen a comparable problem with an industry now so heavily regulated that it seems only a matter of time before its product loses all credibility. That industry is tobacco.
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