Human impacts on our planet’s life support systems are contributing to carbon dioxide buildup and climate change. Few countries are taking critically needed action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. In a dramatic action the British government has made a hard political decision, putting our planet’s welfare above continued unsustainable growth of airport traffic which contributes to climate change.
As reported in the New York Times today:
In a bold if lonely environmental stand, Britain’s coalition government has set out to curb the growth of what has been called “binge flying” by refusing to build new runways around London to accommodate more planes.
Citing the high levels of greenhouse gas emissions from aviation, Prime Minister David Cameron, a Conservative, abruptly canceled longstanding plans to build a third runway at Heathrow Airport in May, just days after his election; he said he would also refuse to approve new runways at Gatwick and Stansted, London’s second-string airports.
The government decided that enabling more flying was incompatible with Britain’s oft-stated goal of curbing emissions. Britons have become accustomed to easy, frequent flying — jetting off to weekend homes in Spain and bachelor parties in Prague — as England has become a hub for low-cost airlines. The country’s 2008 Climate Change Act requires it to reduce emissions by at least 34 percent by 2020 from levels reached in 1990
Here in Seattle meanwhile we opened a new third runway at Seattle Tacoma International Airport in 2008. As noted in a Seattle Times article in November 2008:
As the first jetliner takes off today on Seattle-Tacoma International Airport’s new $1 billion third runway, state and local decision-makers are already debating where in Puget Sound to put a fourth runway or its equivalent.
While the current recession has slowed consideration of expanding air traffic, when the economy improves pressure will again increase for continued expansion of regional airports. Alternatives to more air traffic include expanding our rail transportation system. Last year a news report from McClathydc.com reported that:
Washington state and California officials have held preliminary discussions about a high-speed, state-of-the-art rail line that would connect San Diego and Vancouver, B.C., with trains that could travel in excess of 200 miles per hour.
Certainly we have alternatives. These don’t just include huge engineering projects and huge financial expenditures as more teleconferencing versus business trips as an example makes sense both environmentally and economically for businesses.
And horror of horrors, maybe people just not taking as many personal airline trips makes sense. Growth for growth sake is not the answer to living within our means without destroying our planet’s life support systems.
Let’s give a round of applause to Britain for acting with restraint. We need to do the same in planning for our future in the Northwest..