Monday, August 13, 2007

more trouble for Heathrow

I have just been reading the BBC News article about the protests at Heathrow, and the associated Have Your Say page. Which, for once, is pleasantly free from unnecessary capital letters (IDIOTS) and poor spelling.

It might not surprise you to know that I don't have much time for these self-righteouss tent dwellers, and I am disappointed that in the name of a "peaceful protest" they are seemingly being allowed to dwell illegally on Imperial College land (wasting police time, money and resources in the process). If you ask me, they should be thrown out, now. End of. Doubtless someone will cry "deplorable" and "irresponsible" but I was quite amused by the comment by the guy who wondered if he could get away with doing 33mph in a 30 Zone by claiming to be "protesting peacefully". There is some logic there.

I find these people extremely selfish, and they will doubtless inconvenience lots of holiday makers despite assurances that they won't; apparently they are only targeting BAA. That's like closing a supermarket and claiming that those who wish to shop there won't be inconvenienced.

I also feel that they need to get their science right. Let's see some hard facts rather than random claims of "more air travel will lead to dead babies". I don't doubt that we should be working to be responsible and curb our effect on the environment, but as far as I understand it air travel is not as big a factor as people make it out to be. It's just an easy target. Why aren't people protesting that China is building two coal power stations a week?

I also think that the effects of Heathrow's planned expansion - and the alternatives - need to be considered. Will not expanding curb air travel? Probably not. Instead, pressure will mount on other airports, in this country and abroad, and expansion will doubtless take place somewhere. Furthermore, the holding time for aeroplanes above Heathrow will not be reduced. Correct me if I am wrong but a plane in a holding pattern still outputs Carbon Dioxide.

Like others on the Have Your Say page, I am also keen to know how the illegal campers who came from abroad got here. Did they fly? I'll also bet that those who weren't so hypocritcal came by car or bus. Possibly not one which had been well maintained and certainly one which would have given off Carbon Dioxide and other nastier gases. If you're so concerned about limiting your Carbon Footprint, why didn't you stay at home?

Finally, am I alone in wondering what sort of idiot buys a house in the Heathrow flight path and then thinks it's perfectly OK for them to complain about the noise?

3 comments:

Alasdair said...

China's per capita emissions are still very low compared to the developed world, at 2.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year (cf 9.5 for the UK and 20.0 for the USA). The increase of Chinese emissions isn't good, but it's hypocritical to blame Chinese power stations for global warming and to continue flying as normal.

Aviation accounted for 5.5% of the UK's emissions in 2004. The government is predicting an increase of yearly passenger numbers from 200 million today to between 400 million and 600 million in 2030, 'if sufficient capacity is provided'.

Although the 5.5% may seem small at the moment, but emissions from aircraft have a greater impact than emissions on the ground - 2.7 is a commonly used multiplier to get an estimate of the true effect. If we double the number of passengers at the same time as aiming to make cuts in our total emissions, then aviation will become a large fraction of CO2 ration.

There's not as much scope to reduce aviation emissions compared to those from electricity generation. Every extra flight means that we'll need to make greater cuts elsewhere. There's little prospect of a huge leap forward in technology giving a massive reduction in aviation emissions. Any efficiency gains are likely to be small, and wiped out by the increase in air traffic.

Agreed, if airport expansion occurs at other places in the UK instead of Heathrow that won't help the climate. But I think these protesters want to reduce the number of flights across the UK, rather than move them to Gatwick.

Improving air traffic control to reduce the amount of time spent in holding patterns is a worthy aim, but I would suggest that the increase in air traffic will wipe those savings out many times over.

(figures from Heat, by George Monbiot)

Starkey said...

I agree with you in part. What do you think of the argument that if Heathrow doesn't expand, then its world influence will decline? Personally I wonder why that matters. It's like saying that Reading station will have fewer passengers soon. So what? The effect on the British economy will be gradual, if not unnoticeable.

I live in the same borough as Heathrow, and I'm not up for its expansion. Heathrow is surrounded on three sides by London suburbia, and picturesque areas like Windsor, Ealing, Richmond, Twickenham, Kingston, Eton and Virginia Water have been long blighted by planes flying over every five minutes. Expanding Heathrow with another runway will require the razing of acres of heathland and destroy the communities of Sipson, Harmondsworth and Longford. I'm of the opinion that if we need an airport to expand (do we?) then go for Gatwick, Luton or Stansted, which are out in the middle of nowhere.

Gareth P said...

The problem remains that people are going to want/need to go abroad. Unless some geneticist somewhere comes up with a way to give us wings air travel is only going to increase. I think the world has rather moved on from the medieval situation of never leaving your village; let alone country or continent!

Whilst I accept we should all limit the level of air miles we clock up where possible, perhaps the attitude should be to encourage everyone to become carbon neutral. I think that setting up camp and disrupting peoples holidays (which they have paid a great deal for and is likely to be the only one they'll have that year) is just going to alienate the masses.

As my mother is fond of saying: "You catch more flys with honey than vinegar"