More Debate: Is It O.K. to Fly?


Travel is one of life's pleasures Begins yet another discussion (Treehugger) on whether we can continue to fly in the face of all the evidence on how bad it is for the environment. The Guardian's travel writer, Leo Hickman, attended a recent aviation industry conference where many worrying statistics were revealed. Global passenger numbers will triple by 2050; the number of passengers travelling from China has doubled since 2000 whilst European demand is growing at 5% a year. By the year 2020 India could be operating 2,000 airplanes and right now there are about 12,000 civil aircraft flying in the world. Because of this huge and growing demand, small changes in efficiency will have little or no impact. In the view of experts, there is little hope that kerosene will be replaced as fuel for the next 30 years. New "synthetic" kerosenes are made from coal and don't offer any significant reduction in emissions.
So what is the answer? One response is to make ticket prices more expensive so that the user pays. Some say this is unfair because it makes flying only for the rich. However, the evidence shows that in the UK it is the same people who are flying—only more often and further afield. Changing the way planes are flown and directed once in the air is another chance to save fuel. Air traffic controllers in Europe "believe that up to 12% of the global fleet's current fuel burn could be saved simply be making planes fly more direct routes". There are some positive proposals to make planes less damaging. Landing procedures could be changed so that they use less fuel. Airplane capacity could be increased and business class removed completely. Building lighter planes and making more aerodynamic improvements are all being implemented. As summer vacation plans are being discussed, this one is really a matter of conscience. :: Guardian