Air Travel 'Of Enormous Concern' for Global Warming

By Amanda Brown, Environment Correspondent, PA News

The growth of air travel and its impact on global warming is “an issue of enormous concern”, the Government’s chief scientific adviser warned today.

Sir David King, who earlier this year sparked controversy when he said climate change was a more serious threat to the planet than terrorism, told an all-party committee of MPs: “It is not perhaps unusual that the (aviation) industry would like to continue in a relatively unregulated fashion.”

He added that he believed this was “an issue of enormous concern in terms of climate change”.

Sir David also highlighted difficulties with aviation tax.

Aircraft fumes containing carbon dioxide are a major contributor to atmospheric pollution and a worsening of the greenhouse effect with extreme weather conditions such as storms, drought and flooding.

Sir David said mankind has the power to tackle the problem, but politics is a problem as far as air travel is concerned.

He told the Commons Environmental Audit Committee: “The issue of aviation is very important.

“Of course it is complicated but I don’t think because an issue is complicated, we should avoid the consequences.

“Aviation around the world is a continually growing industry and it depends critically on fossil fuel burning.

“So without going into the details, we can see that there is a net negative effect in terms of global warming.

“There are complex factors arising from water vapour production at different levels. But if we just look at carbon dioxide emissions, that in itself is a major contributory factor to our net emissions problem.

“No single country can resolve this problem. If aviation fuel tax were introduced in one country, planes would simply fly off to another to fill up.

“So it is another complex international issue and I’m afraid that as soon as I see a complex international issue, we are up against buffers and longer timescales.”

Sir David said climate change was already “irreversible”, but the Antarctic ice sheet could take about 1,000 years to melt.

He added that while the Greenland ice sheet could melt in between 50 and 200 years, sea levels could rise by six or seven metres, causing flooding over London.

“It is all happening now and it is a process that has already begun. The best way to deal with it is not to test it out. Don’t go there, keep CO2 levels down,” added Sir David.

He said that Europe is “absolutely on target” with its carbon dioxide reductions and should hold on to it without any “weakening of the knees”.

But simply “preaching” to the developing world about the need to cut back on emissions “won’t work,” he said.

©2004 Scotsman.com

Informant: NHNE


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