Wednesday, August 22, 2007

SWRDA's Greenwash

A gushing article about the boom in the regions airport entitled 'Region's Airport Extend their Reach' in the Business magazine Link, Summer '07;

“Business is booming at South West airports. Hardly a week goes by without the announcement of a new link with a destination somewhere in Europe.”

However we all know that that party pooper, Mr. Climate Change is about so they take pains to reassure us it is being considered;

“Of course the whole issue of air transport and its impact on the environment is very much under the microscope at the moment. Exactly how this affects the South the subject of ongoing debate by the South West Regional Development Agency...” The article then goes on to quote a lengthy passage by Malcolm Bell, the boss of Tourism South West, “What has gone wrong at the moment, however, is that air travel us considered bad and bus an train wonderful. That's a simplistic approach that requires caution – for example, the environmental impact of somebody who files into the South West, hires an ecologically acceptable car and walks for five days on Dartmoor will be very different to the person who motors down from Swindon and drives around the area all day before returning home.”

Let look at the figures: Swindon to Bovey Tracey 218 KM, then drives around all day, say another 50 KM per day for 5 days then 218 KM back, total of 636 @ 30 MPG gives 0.24 tones of CO2. OK?

Now, The drive from Bristol Airport to Bovey Tracy (128 KM) and our visitor walks around Dartmoor, then back, total of 256 KM @ 60 MPG gives 0.04 tonnes of CO2, now in criticizing simplistic comparisons Mr. Bell is a little simplistic himself in not giving us enough information to compare his key comparison – where has the visitor flown from? If we look at where Bristol Airport serves, you get a different picture, if the flight is not that far away, say Brussels then you get an additional 0.14 tonnes of CO2, total 0.18 so its marginally better, but the comparison falls away as the list of destinations the airport servers is examined; say Berlin (0.26 tonnes CO2, total 0.3 tonnes CO2). New York (1.5 tonnes of CO2, total 1.54) – In short it is an unrealistic picture that only stands up under very tight circumstances – and this trite, simplistic comparison is being used to attack simplistic comparisons. Urrk! In short, it's rubbish. Greenwash. The article has more greenwash too, gushing support for Bristol Airport where the objections of residents and campaigners are 'answered' by the fact that the airport is going to, “...include a decked car-park with green roof to minimise visual impact...” Oh and a couple of wind turbines and bio-mass generator – but they also plan to up passenger numbers to 9 million – but the article does not attempt to balance the CO2 cost of these.

With this in mind, here is some sage advice on how to people often react to climate change;

“- 'It is not really happening – get over it': This view values the risks of damage from climate change at zero. For now, at least, this view is not supported by most scientific opinion and, indeed, increasingly not by both wider expert, popular and political opinion

- 'It is happening but we can ignore it and carry on as we are': When/if its effects become important, we can deal with it as best we can at the time. Markets and other incentives will adjust and growth will be refocused. Rationally, this approach is saying that the value of our current lifestyle exceeds the value of the environmental damage we may be producing over any foreseeable time frame and, unless this inequality is reversed, there is no present need to act.”

Both a good points and sum up the attitude to airports – and both points are published in the Third Quarter: August 2006 Economics Review Issue 5 – published by SWRDA. Maybe they should read their own reports before backing the expansion of airports?

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