Swiss air traffic helps Global Warming!

All of the Swiss airports have seen strong growth in 2011. This means that the air traffic contribution to global warming is increasing. Could Geneva become like Beijing?

All of the main Swiss airports have been proudly announcing record growth in 2011. Yesterday it was Zurich, which saw 6.4% more passengers than in 2010, whilst prior to that Geneva announced a 10.5% growth, Basel a 22% growth and Bern a whopping 82% growth. Of course, the growth in the total number of flights is less, for various reasons (although the 9.26% growth of scheduled passenger flights in Geneva is not very much less than the corresponding 11.35% growth in the number of passengers on these scheduled flights).

It was also interesting to read that sales of new cars in Switzerland rose by 8.4% in 2011, with December being a record single month. It was perhaps good to see that diesels (presumably with fine particle filters!) were 17.4% up, but less good that 4x4 all terrain gas guzzler?) vehicles were 11.5% up.

At the same time, Geneva authorities, headed by Mark Muller, are forecasting a strong growth in immigration and new industries in Geneva, and planning how to accomodate it. Geneva airport is seen as a particular attractivity feature, likely to appeal to financial wizards (hedge funds and currency market traders are often mentioned). Inevitably, this will imply further air traffic expansion in Geneva, though perhaps not just yet: 2012 is forecast to be a bad year.

This inevitably leads us to the conclusion that Switzerland is almost certainly increasing its contribution to CO2 emissions, and hence almost certainly to global warming. Thus, we are effectively saying to the so-called developing countries, in particular China, India and Brazil, that when you have the money it will be OK to use it in a polluting way. Already, China recently has shown us what happens as pollution rises: last Tuesday in Beijing there was such air pollution (not admitted by the Chinese authorities) that 155 flights had to be delayed or cancelled.

NO2 Geneva 2010.JPGIn Geneva, the authorities monitor the air quality quite closely. It is interesting to see the overall graphical presentation of the Nitrogen dioxide emissions in Geneva canton, which show that in 2010 the area around Geneva airport was almost as bad as the centre of town (almost certainly because of automobile traffic). The figures for 2011 will surely be worse still.

When I see estimates of future air traffic at Geneva airport which foresee (at least) another 30% growth, with an almost inevitable negative effect on pollution and noise, in particular at night, plus more and more cars (even if the current tram chaos is resolved!) I start to wonder whether Geneva airport might one day have problems similar to those of Beijing now.

Ask your chemist if they have any face masks?

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