12 January 2008

Emirates on aviation and climate change

The Emirates Group 2006-2007 Annual Report has a some strong views on aviation and climate change from the company's Executive Vice Chairman, Maurice Flanagan, that clearly place the airline in the climate-change sceptics camp. I think that they are worthy of quoting in full:

"I was at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January and was aghast at the global warming hysteria sweeping the place, with airlines being demonised for their alleged 1.4 per cent contribution to global emissions. Airlines are at the heart of the travel and tourism nexus, linking engine and airframe manufacturers, hotels, car hire, tour operators, travel agencies, connected businesses, and the communities which they serve. If the Green extremists, and their cohorts in governments and the media have their way, hundreds of thousands of jobs in the travel and tourism industry will be lost in the years ahead, against a very dodgy maybe, unsupported by any conclusive evidence, and with a tide of evidence now sweeping in the opposite direction.

"By the way, about that 1.4 per cent – the methane exuded by cows in Europe alone far exceeds the 1.4 per cent of global aviation emissions. There is now a multi-billion dollar industry invested in the myth that the future of the planet is at serious risk through global warming caused by what people do. The Green extremists are impervious to argument, and tend just to quote Al Gore’s regrettably persuasive but fundamentally misleading An Inconvenient Truth at you. Have a critical look at that film, which concludes with a forecast of a global temperature rise of 2.5°F by the end of the century. Mr Gore’s phony graph, however, has steps on the vertical axis of one hundredths of a degree Fahrenheit, so that the temperature seems to shoot up out of control, instead of creeping along the bottom line as it would if presented honestly. Mr Gore cherry-picks to suit his case, for example, citing less snow on Kilimanjaro, whereas Darjeeling and the mountains of Pakistan are seeing snow for the first time in living memory. Mr Gore cites a few recent years in which the temperature rose, and ignores the years of global cooling after the Second World War, when more carbon emissions were pumped into the atmosphere than at any time before or since. Climate changes unpredictably, minute to minute and millennium to millennium. That’s the essence of climate – it changes. Don’t just believe me about all this. Type ‘Global Cooling’ in your web browser and note, for example, the recent articles in The Times of India, the Canadian National Post, the Daily Telegraph and the Russian climatology scientists predicting global cooling.

"With fuel costs now running at about 30 per cent of a typical airline’s total cost, against about 13 per cent a few short years ago, the airlines and manufacturers of airframes and engines could scarcely do more than they are already doing about it. In the years to 2025, airline passenger traffic is forecast to double, but aircraft movements to increase by only 2.8 per cent, as average aircraft size significantly outpaces traffic growth. Fuel burn per passenger will fall correspondingly and the 1.4 per cent of global emissions allegedly generated by the airlines will undoubtedly fall."

Readers will have their own views on the above. Personally, I believe that there is always a place for healthy scepticism on scientific matters but I was rather taken by the view of Nassim Nicholas Taleb whose popular books, "Fooled by Randomness" and "The Black Swan", I have recently finished reading. In a recent contribution to Edge he says:

Correspondents keep asking me if it the climate worriers are basing their claims on shoddy science, and whether, owing to nonlinearities, their forecasts are marred with such a possible error that we should ignore them. Now, even if I agreed that it were shoddy science; even if I agreed with the statement that the climate folks were most probably wrong, I would still opt for the most ecologically conservative stance — leave planet earth the way we found it. Consider the consequences of the very remote possibility that they may be right, or, worse, the even more remote possibility that they may be extremely right."

Food for thought.

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