Will we ever stop flying?

Most of us have felt the conflict between wanting to fly and knowing it is bad for the planet. So get this: stopping flying to combat climate change is not an option – at least according to the boss of chocolate makers Green & Black’s, quoted in the Guardian’s eco blog.In the same blog, the chief exec of British Airways, Willie Walsh, is quoted suggesting that a third runway at Heathrow airport might actually benefit the climate. Well, he would say that, but neither individuals nor government are happy making sacrifices to combat climate change. In the same month that Ed Miliband, the UK’s Energy and Climate Change Secretary, heads to Germany to discuss the agenda for December’s UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen, the latest offerings on climate change highlight the discrepancy between our personal decisions and official policy on emissions targets. Nicholas Stern opined at this year’s Guardian Hay festival that the decision to go ahead with a third runway at Heathrow did not take into account UK carbon policies. When I attended the most recent flashmob protest against Heathrow’s third runway earlier this month, I asked the John Stewart, of protest group HACAN Clearskies, why the third runway was so important. “Although aviation may not be the biggest carbon emitter in the UK, it is the fastest growing,” he said. “For Heathrow in particular, a third runway would increase emissions related to the airport to the point where it would be the biggest single CO2 producer in the UK, overtaking the coal fired power station Drax.” At the same protest, John McDonnell, MP for Hayes and Harlington where Heathrow is situated, pre-empted Stern’s sentiments by describing the third runway as an “iconic battleground on climate change in terms of airport expansion”. He went on to pronounce to cheering flashmobbers that he believed there would be no third runway: “I think we’ve won, but no one in the government is prepared to admit it.” It seems that, if plans for Heathrow’s third runway proceed, it will be seen as a message that there is no substantial commitment to stopping climate change. Given the severity of the predicted consequences for global warming, you’d think that governments and populace alike would be jumping to make drastic changes to the way we live. Governments have a duty to take all of its decisions with emissions policies in mind, but we all have a responsibility when it comes to climate change. Cheap weekend breaks, taking the car rather than walking… When it comes to the crunch, it seems very few of us are prepared to sacrifice life’s luxuries over something that might happen dozens of years down the line. Most of us only get out and do something when it’s our homes that are threatened.I know I have been as guilty of this as anyone else. I’ve tried to “do my bit” for the environment. But my individual decisions, just like those made on a national scale, are a trade off between convenience and good intentions. Global temperatures are rising, so remind me – what’s the road to hell paved with?

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