03/23/2012

More carbon emissions menace Bangladesh

More cars and more aircraft still mean more carbon emissions. The Bangladeshi Prime Minister recently warned that her country will suffer, but others will follow.


Geneva airport is expected shortly to follow Zurich in announcing record profits for the year 2011. They indicate that the increase in the number of movements is "only" 6.61%: a smart way to avoid saying that for the scheduled flights, mainly medium to large jets (i.e. those emitting most CO2), the increase is 9.79%. This increase is not much below the increase in passengers on these scheduled flights (11.35%).

The airport has, of course, been bringing to the Geneva motor show many thousands of car enthusiasts. At this show, the salesmen will have tried to persuade these visitors to buy new cars. Although the car industry is arguably ahead of the aircraft industry in making transport less polluting, the continual increase in the motor vehicle population is almost certainly adding to global CO2 emissions: even if we buy a new vehicle, quite possibly hybrid, our old one will doubtless continue its existence somewhere else.

On the day that I read of the Zurich airport announcement (Wednesday 22 March) I received the latest bulletin of the World Meteorological Organisation. The first, perhaps the most important, article in it was a speech give by Her Excellency Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, at the Congress in Geneva in May 2011. The title, which we should take seriously, is

Climate change - "a serious challenge to human existence".

In this speech she emphasized that for several decades her country has experienced a gradual increase in erratic floods, river erosion, cyclones and other disquieting phenomena. Because of the fact of Bangladesh being so low-lying, these events have forced her government to spend much money on measures such as flood management schemes: money that would otherwise have been better spent on development. When we look around us, it seems that they are not alone in experiencing more weather (and other climate-related) extremes: even Switzerland (Geneva) seems also to have been affected.

Bangladesh is thus one of those countries which emit negligible amounts of greenhouse gases, yet are often the worst victims of the consequent effects, which few people now deny as being at least partly caused by these emissions. This is one reason why I get annoyed when the airport authorities repeatedly state that there is little air traffic pollution in Geneva: the aircraft which come to and go from Geneva contribute all their emissions to the one world that we all live in.

To finish with a quote from this speech

Today some countries face climate changes, but tomorrow, the whole world will.

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