12/23/2013

Environmental flying?

On Sunday 22 December Le Matin Dimanche commented on the many flights of the head of the Federal Environment Office.


According to this article, Bruno Oberle flew nearly 400,000 kilometres in the period 2010 to 2012: the equivalent of 10 times around the circumference of the world. Whilst the Federal Administration tries to reduce its carbon footprint, the flights of Bruno Oberle and his department represent over half of their CO2 emissions. As such, the department has not met the target for 2012: a reduction of 6%.

What I find difficult to accept is the statement in the article that the department has "achieved" the objectives by means of severe compensation measures of 3 tons of CO2 per employee.

Ce n'est qu'qu prix de très onéreuses mesures de compensation de 3 tonnes de CO2 par employé que l'OFEV "atteint" les objectifs.

This seems to follow the concept that we, being rich, can compensate by various means our excessive carbon footprint. Is this concept acceptable? Can we say to someone who has a medical problem because of the carbon footprint that it is acceptable because we can give that person good medical treatment? Can we say that an increased risk of bronchial problems, even as serious as lung cancer, because of excessive tiny particles from engine combustion, is OK because we have access to expensive but high quality treatments to prolong life?

I recently saw a similar argument in the Daily Telegraph, where an "expert", Alister Heath, an advocate of airport expansion in the South East of England, wrote

Contrary to what some continue to claim, taxes on airline travel are already so high that the cost of pollution is more than covered.

Again, the argument that we can "afford" to pollute: I disagree, and I think that future generations will agree with me. Pollution cannot be thought of as something which we can forget about by simply paying (what is the going cost per unit of pollution?).

I liked the thoughts of the ecologist National Councillor, Bastien Girod, who commented that the needs for international coordination on the environment (which, in my opinon, have had little effect so far!) could not really have  required a 40% increase in just 4 years. He also repeated that air travel represents the factor whose impact on global warming (sceptics prefer to talk of climate change) is rising fastest.

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