Environmental Liberals: Ban Air Travel, Tax Jet Fuel
Here is the essay I wrote in 2001 for the Brunswick Times Record that predicted these restrictions. Since then there has been more research and consternation among the KYOTO'ists who realize that the research is pointing a big finger of blame at their favorite mode of travel.
quote:Air traffic a culprit in global warming
Frank J. Heller, Brunswick
The Brunswick Naval Air Station is to be commended for reducing its ground-based greenhouse gas emissions (Aug. 24, "BNAS to receive award for 'environmental excellence'"). But I wonder whether the awards for this accomplishment is obscuring the pollution from the "A" in their acronym?New scientific research indicates that air operations may be the largest and most dangerous source of greenhouse gas emissions in the globe, and the Green party's policy positions in the United Kingdom have targeted aviation and both military and civilian plane use.This is such a serious issue that some scientists now speculate that the "emergence of the airplane as the primary vehicle for long distance travel" has led to much higher concentrations of greenhouse gases in the stratosphere than in the whole atmosphere." (Katta G. Murty, Department of Industrial and Operations Engineering, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich., Nov. 10, 2000, with cooperation of Andrea Fischer Newman, vice president of Northwest Airlines. On the Net at http://www-personal.engin .umich.edu/~murty/planetravel.pdf.)This in turn "indicates that the increasing volumes of airplane travel worldwide have serious environmental consequences, perhaps more serious than the ozone hole phenomenon on which the attention of the scientific community is riveted." (Ibid.)The research suggests that the rapid increase in greenhouse gases in the upper atmosphere is due to the concomitant increase in aviation activity at those levels, and not from the increase in ground level activity. Murty further accents her case by showing how upper level discharges are prevented from atmospheric mixing by round-the-clock flights, unlike ground discharges that are cyclical.It is her conclusion that "because this (air) traffic is releasing large quantities of greenhouse gases into the stratosphere directly, around the globe and round the clock, this traffic is perhaps the major contributor to the observed global warming. " (Ibid.)In flight, the P3s and many other planes spew large quantities of greenhouse gases directly into the upper atmosphere, where they do far more damage than those at ground level.Since each P-3 burns between 4,000-5,000 pounds of jet fuel each hour, it is possible to calculate the total tonnage burned each year. CO2 is the major constituent of those exhaust gases and, as Murty's paper shows, does not readily drift downward to lower levels of the atmosphere. The United Kingdom, which has played a key role in negotiating the Kyoto Protocol, has recognized the critical role of aviation; and while the Protocol doesn't address the role international aviation plays because of the inability to fix responsibility, there is a fast growing awareness that aviation is a major culprit in global warming:"The intergovernmental panel on climate change in 1999 estimated that aircraft might be responsible for 5 to 6 percent of the warming caused by greenhouse gases. However, some of the study's authors believe that the figure could be 10 percent or more "” that is, amounting to more than half the global warming potential emissions from road transport." (House of Commons debate on Aircraft Emissions, March 20, 2000.) Furthermore, it was stated during this debate that other emissions "include oxides of nitrogen "” which lead to the formation of ozone "” particulates and water vapour, which lead to the formation of contrails. There are uncertainties about their exact effects of climate change, but they could be as great as those of carbon dioxide alone." (Ibid.)So we have a serious problem stemming from aviation flights in the atmosphere and BNAS is a contributor to that problem. To put matters in perspective, we have this statement from a Swiss study of the global warming potential of aviation activities: "If the Global Warming Potential is used as a measure and the climate"” (if) relevant air traffic emissions are assessed with a factor of 2, air traffic makes up 22 percent of the total GWP in Switzerland."The report further forecasts "that even if Switzerland fully complied with the obligation of the Kyoto Protocol by reducing the CO2 emissions by 8 percent, the expected increase of emissions from the excluded air traffic would most probably more than counterbalance the positive impact of the planned reductions. The report concludes "that without special measures, aviation's share of the Global Warming Potential in Switzerland may rise to about one third." (Climate Protection Partnership [CliPP], SKAT news, June 2001, Vadianstrasse 42, St. Gallen, Switzerland.)I reviewed these findings with Adam Markham of Clean Air-Cool Planet and Prof. Jon Reisman of the University of Maine at Machias. Regarding Gov. Angus King's recent commitment for the state of Maine to implement the Kyoto Protocol, Reisman said, "Although he (King) probably didn't know it, he also signed BNAS's death warrant!"Brunswick needs a comprehensive climate action plan that scrutinizes BNAS in light of these new findings. Rather than terminate aviation activity there, hopefully, the pine forest and wetlands that once flourished at the site can be restored. This would turn most of BNAS into a "carbon sink" to offset the devastating contribution of air-based greenhouse emissions.