Heathrow third runway take off corridors
1896 – CO2 and global warming link proposed
The link between increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and global warming was first proposed by a Swedish scientist, Svante Arrhenius, who warned in 1896, that the rapidly increasing consumption of fossil fuel caused by industrialisation would lead to increases in average temperature.
A British scientist, G. S. Calendar, calculated in 1938 that mankind had produced 150 billion tons of CO2 over the last 50 years. In the 1950s, American scientists Plass and Revelle warned that global warming could become a problem in the near future.
Bell Labs documentary
In 1962, the Russian climate expert Mikhail Budyko issued a stronger warning. He calculated that the exponential growth of industrial civilization would cause a drastic global warming within the next century. In 1965, a group of leading scientists issued a joint statement that “By the year 2000 the increase in atmospheric CO2 … may be sufficient to produce measurable and perhaps marked changes in climate.”
In 1972, The Ecologist published A Blueprint for Survival in advance of the first Environment Summit in Stockholm. Authored by Edward Goldsmith and Robert Allen, it put forward the case for adopting a more sustainable lifestyle. Many of their ideas, which seemed radical at the time, are now part of EU policy. As regards UK transport they argued that,
270. No-one can contemplate with equanimity the doubling of roads within this decade necessary to maintain the status quo, and we must therefore seek sensible transportation alternatives. It is clear that broadly-speaking the only alternative is public transport-a mix of rapid mass-transit by road and rail. Rail especially should never have been allowed to run down to the extent that it has. The power requirements for transporting freight by road are five to six times greater than by rail and the pollution is correspondingly higher. The energy outlay for the cement and steel required to build a motorway is three to four times greater than that required to build a railway and the land area necessary for the former is estimated to be four times more than for the latter. Public transport whether by road or rail is much more efficient in terms of per capita use of materials and energy than any private alternative. It can also be as flexible, provided it is encouraged at the expense of private transport.
In 1985 a French-Soviet drilling team at Vostok Station in central Antarctica produced an ice core two kilometers long that carried a 150,000-year record, a complete ice age cycle of warmth, cold and warmth. They found that the level of atmospheric CO2 had gone up and down in remarkably close step with temperature.
By the time they stopped drilling a dozen years later, the team had recovered ice going back 400,000 years, across four glacial cycles. The CO2 levels in their record got as low as 180 parts per million in the cold periods and reached 280 in the warm periods, never higher. But in the air above the researchers, the level of the gas had reached 350 — far above anything seen in this geological era and still climbing.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme. In 1992, at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development more than 150 nations signed a declaration committing themselves to reducing carbon dioxide emissions in their countries. In 1994, the IPCC stated that nations needed to make drastic changes in order to negate the effects of global warming. This announcement led to the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to fight global warming. The protocol called for countries to reduce their emission of greenhouse gases and was to take effect in 2005.
The treaty was signed and ratified by 125 countries. However, the United States, which is estimated to be the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gases, refused to sign the treaty. In 2007 the IPCC shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former USA Vice President Al Gore.
At the end of 2007 the IPCC released its Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) which provided irrefutable evidence how mankind’s activities are driving climate change. Since 2007, scientists have observed rapidly shrinking polar ice caps and have warned that as polar ice cover decreases so it will reflect back less and less solar radiation leading to an acceleration of global warming.
(Arctic summer ice 1997 – 2007, You Tube video)
UK contribution to reducing CO2 emissions
And what of the UK’s contribution to reducing CO2 emissions? Since 1961 the UK has axed 2/3 of its railway network (pdf). In 1997, the UK Labour was elected on a manifesto that promised, inter alia, We will put concern for the environment at the heart of policy-making, so that it is not an add-on extra, but informs the whole of government, from housing and energy policy through to global warming and international agreements. Emissions of CO2, from power stations, motor vehicles and homes, amounted to 560.6 million tonnes in 2006, 6.4 million tonnes higher than the 2005 figure. The increase of 1.15 per cent means that Britain’s emissions are now at the highest level since Labour came to power a decade ago, nearly 3 per cent above 1997. (source The Independent)
UK traffic levels have risen some 11 per cent since Labour came to power in 1997. The three successive Labour administrations – the 2002 renationalisation of Railtrack notwithstanding – have done nothing to reform the dysfunctional management of Britain’s railways that they had inherited from John Major’s inept privatisation. Instead – after a brief pause – the government renewed the Tories road-building programme. Road transport is responsible for around 20% of total UK emissions of carbon dioxide. (Source: FOE press release) Emissions are rising because traffic is growing faster than fuel efficiency is improving. Aviation emissions have grown fastest of all. Since 1990, domestic aviation has seen emissions growth of nearly 100%, while international air travel emissions have grown by 123%.
Aware but not connected
The government is well aware of global warming and rising sea levels and the government controlled quango, English Nature, has just proposed allowing the sea to engulf the northern Norfolk Broads! Meanwhile Department for Transport declares that it is ‘modally agnostic‘ while actively promoting a third runway – mainly to handle internal UK – flights at London’s Heathrow Airport.
At London’s Heathrow Airport, the opening of the new Terminal 5 (T5) to fare paying passengers on 28 March (there was an official opening by the Queen a fortnight earlier) was a shambles. Press reports highlighted cancelled flights, 15,000 – 20,000 piled up items of luggage and irate passengers. There was no mention that, when the T5 planning enquiry was held, local residents were promised that that the construction of the new terminal would not be be followed by the building of a third runway. However, even before Terminal 5 greeted its first passengers, The Guardian and The Independent were already drawing attention to the some of the continuing problems that travellers would face at Heathrow. This week as T5 passengers suffer cancelled flights and baggage chaos, its time to pause and reflect that more and more of the UK’s European neighbours are deserting the hassles of airport check-in, and the dubious facilities of toxic aeroplanes, for the safety, comfort and convenience of high speed rail. In its Saturday leader Terminal Failure, The Guardian injected a timely breath of fresh air into the third runway debate:
But above all else it should lead to a rethink of Heathrow, and the campaign by its monopolistic owner BAA to build a third runway in order to fill Terminals 5 and 6 with ever more passengers.
Unfortunately the prime minister and the transport secretary seem convinced of the case. It would be better if they shook their heads after this week’s disaster and instead backed at least one new high-speed rail line from London to the north, which could serve Heathrow too. This is what has happened in the rest of Europe, where fast rail links from Madrid to Barcelona or Paris to Lyon easily trump flying. Not many of the passengers struggling to board short-haul flights from Terminal 5 yesterday really wanted to travel to or from London by plane. They were doing so either because British Airways has abandoned direct flights from regional airports or because, absurdly, it is cheaper to travel by air than by train.
Even without short-haul flights Heathrow will still be packed. Many places can only be reached by flying. But there should be no need for BA to run 14 daily flights from London to Manchester. It will keep on doing so while the government tries to cap rail use. This week the Department for Transport delayed plans to lengthen Virgin Trains services to Manchester from nine coaches to 11. The government should change its mind on that, block a third runway and recognise that Heathrow has reached its limit. Terminal 5 will work in the end. But it is the new station at St Pancras which offers a real 21st-century gateway to London.
Now as Terminal 5 chaos continues some MP’s are beginning to question the wisdom of building a third runway at Heathrow.
Gordon Brown and Ruth Kelly, please note.
How Mankind Is Sleepwalking… , The Ecologist
Climate Change, Friends of the Earth
Climate Change: facts and figures, Christian Aid
The 4 Stages of Global Warming Denial, M.G.R. Gatineau
How to use green transport, Campaign for Better Transport
Shifting Gear, The Ecologist
30 Steps to an oil free world, The Ecologist
Get Cycling, Sustrans
UK motor industry failing to tackle climate change, FOE
Heathrow Third Runway
MPs criticise Terminal 5 ‘Fiasco’, Financial Times
Britain stealing US crown of No 1 climate villain, The Guardian
‘Secret pact’ over Heathrow’s third runway, Times
Hemmed in at Heathrow, The Economist
Heathrow analysis ‘seriously flawed’, Financial Times
The Economics of Heathrow Expansion, CE DElft
No Third Runway Action Group, NTRAG
No end in sight for disruption at Terminal 5, Scotsman
The showcase with not a lot to show for it, Daily Mail
What did go wrong at Terminal 5, This is Longford Blog
Other airports’ rocky starts, BBC News
United axes Denver baggage system, Computerworld