Britain's aviation policy is still cruising along cheerfully in the wrong direction, the new figures for proposed airport expansion make clear, but there's an awful crunch coming.
The vast growth in airport capacity, passenger numbers and runways currently planned under the 2003 aviation White Paper cannot go ahead unchanged if Britain is to meet its targets for tackling global warming, targets that were given new emphasis by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown this week after the publication of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change.
Consider: as flying continues its headlong boom, greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft are rising faster than those of any other sector in the economy. At present, aviation accounts for just under 6 per cent of UK emissions, but they are shooting up. According to British Airways' own projections, by 2050 they will range from 17 per cent of the total (under a scenario of low traffic growth and high fuel efficiency), to no less than 46 per cent of the total (under a scenario where growth was high and fuel efficiency low.)
But the picture can be expressed in an even more alarming way. According to the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, if by mid-century Britain cuts its total carbon emissions by 60 per cent, as the Government wishes, but aviation does not scale back its own emissions, flying will then be taking up all the emissions that are available. That is, everything else - business, power generation, home heating - will have to go to zero, to allow flying to continue. …