Heathrow Passengers Turn Blind Eye to Warming
LONDON -- Public concern about climate change is growing in Britain but that will not stop a record Easter exodus from the world's busiest international airport.
Aviation contributes less to global warming than the likes of cars and farming but focuses minds on climate change because a single long-haul flight can double someone's annual greenhouse gas emissions.
A straw poll of 10 passengers flying from Heathrow on Thursday showed four were not convinced climate change was happening or caused by man, and all felt air transport was an inevitable part of modern life.
"We're teachers and say the right thing but maybe we don't do the right thing," said Chris Hykiel and his wife, off to Los Angeles for 11 days on a beach volleyball holiday.
"Yes, aviation can contribute to climate change but it's almost impossible to have an alternative," said Hykiel who would consider paying a "green tax" on top of ticket prices.
"It's just part of life now," said 40-year-old Khurram Mir, a doctor living in Glasgow off on a six-day trip to see family in Pakistan.
"You can't take a ship 6,000 miles to a business meeting. I'm a doctor, I can't take too much time off."
Companies like Climate Care allow people to fund emissions cuts elsewhere to offset their air travel -- for example by contributing to renewable energy projects -- and it calculates a return trip from London to Sydney produces 5.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person.
This is close to the annual per capita CO2 emissions of a Frenchman of 6.2 tonnes, according to U.N. data.
The Association of British Travel Agents estimates a record 2.5 million people will leave Britain this Easter weekend, mostly by plane, versus 2.3 million last year.
The airline industry says it is only a small part of the climate change problem and stresses its contribution to jobs and lifestyles.
"People are keen to travel, it's part of their life, it's part of the fabric of the global community," said a spokesman for the International Air Transport Association (IATA). IATA reckons global aviation is growing at 5 to 6 percent per year.
In a review of the economics of climate change last year Nicholas Stern put aviation's share at 1.6 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. However, its contribution to global warming was two to four times that because of altitude effects.
"Public opinion may be driven by our consumer view of the world," said Kevin Anderson, climate change researcher at Britain's Tyndall Centre.
"Politicians can deal with broader concerns about ourselves and our families. There are many things you can do without having the public on board."