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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Flying Matters, SFO and Freedom of Information

Dear Neil Carmichael MP

It was nice to meet you this morning at the Nailsworth Market.

As discussed, I have been writing about aviation and climate change. The material dispels the idea that the aviation industry can be let off the climate change hook by using outdated figures to claim they only contribute 2% of greenhouse gas emissions.

Following this research, I wrote to Flying Matters which is the lobby group for the aviation industry to challenge the claims that they made on their web site, namely:

• The industry is committed to improving fuel efficiency of new planes by 50% by 2020.

• The industry is committed to getting emission down to 2000 levels by 2050 despite a trebling of air passengers.

I have asked Flying Matters to support these claims, but they told me they came from Sustainable Aviation, who in turn claimed that they came from the IATA. In other words, it is a shameless example of buck passing in the face of a total absence of quantified evidence to support their claims, see correspondance.
This is hardly surprising as to meet the first claim all new plane designs such as the A380 and B787 must be abandoned and replaced with some other undesigned plane. To meet the second claim simple maths shows emissions from all planes must reduce to just 22% from today’s levels. To achieve both of these will require the laws of thermodynamics to be violated.

Making fraudulent claims such as this is extremely serious, not least because they have been successful in developing the idea that technology will ameliorate their climate change impacts. They have stated that as a result of their work they have been successful in persuading the Conservative Party to drop green taxes and contributed to the party moving away from the quality of life proposals.

Crude analysis shows that if aviation paid a similar tax burden to other forms of transport, up to 20% of the public spending cuts could be avoided by raising an extra £10billion of taxes.

In addition to avoiding taxes, the aviation industry has also been successful in delaying the introduction of a cap on aviation emission in the European Carbon Trading Scheme (ETS) to 2020 on the basis of fraudulent claims about the capabilities of technical progress. It will be the general public that will be forced to make much more punitive cuts in their carbon allowances in the future to compensate for aviation emissions today.

It is therefore hard to think of a more serious fraud, and as a result I have submitted the evidence to the Serious Fraud Office.

The SFO have advised “We cannot provide you with feedback on how we have used the information you have provided.” I am therefore concerned that the SFO will not pursue this investigation as they may feel it is simply too difficult as task for them to take on.

I therefore would request the following from you:

• To raise in parliament and within the Conservative Party the question to what extent your party’s policies on aviation and taxation have been shaped by unsubstantiated technical claims from Flying Matters.

• To support a Freedom of Information request on the SFO with regard to the investigative work and conclusions they come to on Flying Matters’ fraudulent claims.

Kevin Lister

Monday, November 22, 2010

How well does media cover climate change

Contribution to the Morning Star Round Table debate on Media and Climate Change:  

Climate change is the defining issue of our civilisation. Adapting our growth orientated and energy dependent society to the limitations it imposes requires the biggest reassessment of values and philosophies since the stone-age. CO2 emissions are currently increasing 50% faster than the worst case scenario in the IPCC reports which will lead to global heating in excess of 6degC by this century’s end.

The focus of our society must be on making urgent cuts to emissions. The quickest and most equitable way to do this is cutting unnecessary consumption. Crudely, 27% of our emissions come from the top 5% of our society. But, the debate on how we do this has not even started – as stopping unnecessary consumption challenges the market economy, which the most powerful in our society have every interest in defending.

Instead, our media echo our politician’s claims that we must grow our economies and do not even consider how we make a fair transition to the zero growth society we need. Nor do our media make any critical assessment of the fraudulent claims of big business, such as aviation’s claim that new technologies will solve all our problems. Rather, they host seductive adverts for carbon intensive lifestyles that push the rational debate we urgently need off the pages making the necessary changes an even more distant prospect.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Email to Willie Walsh - Chief Exec of BA

Dear Mr Walsh,

An exchange of emails between ourselves and Flying Matters has demonstrated that key environmental and climate change claims made on their web site are completely without foundation and totally false. Their principle claims amongst others, are
  • The industry is committed to improving fuel efficiency of new planes by 50% by 2020.
  • The industry is committed to getting emissions down to 2000 levels by 2050 despite a trebling of air passengers.
As an airline executive you will immediately recognize that both of these claims are false. To meet the first the claim, Airbus and Boeing would have to replace production of the B787 and A380 with some as yet undesigned plane. To meet the second claim, aviation emissions on all planes would have to be a mere 22% of current planes and this could only be achieved by breaking the laws of physics.

Your organization funds Flying Matters to lobby on your behalf, and as you are aware they have been extremely successful in getting pro-aviation policies to be passed at local and national government level as well as at EU level. Your organization has therefore gained as a result of these false claims.
This is an extremely serious matter, especially in light of the following facts:
  • Aviation emissions are doubling every 17 years
  • Global Emissions are doubling every 21 years
  • Atmospheric CO2 is increasing more rapidly than the worst case scenario of the IPCC report.
We are sure that you will recognize that it is not in your company’s interest to be associated with Flying Matters in these circumstances or with their false claims. We therefore demand that you either formally renounce these claims or specify how BA can meet them.

We have asked for similar from Flying Matters. If we fail to get an appropriate response we will report them to the Serious Fraud Office along with other companies that have profiteered from their false claims.

We expect your repsone by 9:00am Thursday 18th November, at which point we will report the matter to the Serious Fraud Office.

Yours sincerely,

Kevin Lister

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Demand for the resignation of the directors of Flying Matters

Dear Michelle,

 As regards the statements on your web site, namely:
  • The commitment to improve fuel efficiency of new planes by 50% by 2020
  • The commitment to get emissions down to 2000 levels by 2050 despite a trebling of passenger numbers
There is no evidence on the web sites that you have provided to support these claims. There no “road map” to which you refer, nor can you supply one. There is not even a basic analysis anywhere which quantifies these claims and the impact they have on the industry.

It is a fundamental breach your responsibility as the main industry lobbyists and the organization publishing these. You are clearly not prepared to take any responsibility for these figures and instead point the finger to Sustainable Aviation who also can not justify them.
It is absolutely not enough to say that you are “very comfortable” with these figures when you have not even enquired where they come from or done even the most basic checks.

As a result of your lobbying, many important decisions have been made in support of the expansion of the aviation industry on the erroneous belief that their emissions will significantly reduce due to new technological innovation. These decisions include airport expansions and the delay of the cap on emission in the ETS to 2020. These have devastating effects on local communities and the global environment.

It is difficult to think of a more serous or reprehensible fraud to have committed when the science on climate change is now so serious and so many other people in the world are either making sacrifices to cut their emissions, or having their lives ruined as a consequence of climate change.

As a result, we demand by 9:00am Thursday 18th November either of the following:
  • Definitive plans to show how your targets will be met.

  • A full retraction of your claims with a public apology.
If you fail to provide this, then we expect you and Brian Wilson to resign.

If the above is not complied with, we will refer the matter to the Serious Fraud Office and the Government’s Climate Change Committee.

Yours sincerely,

Kevin Lister

--- On Wed, 10/11/10, Kevin Lister wrote:

From: Kevin Lister
Subject: Re: Aviation improvements to meet climate change, attn Rt Hon Brian Wilson

To: "Michelle Di Leo"

Cc: "somervillehugh" ,

Date: Wednesday, 10 November, 2010, 10:58

Dear Michelle,

Thankyou for you prompt response and directions to the ACRE web site,

I have read through all the ACRE documents and unfortunately still can not find anything that supports Brian's claim on your web site about committing to improving fuel efficiency of new planes by 50% by 2020. I am sure that I am missing something, because I can not believe that a professional organisation would publish such a claim without proper verification and as you say, you are comfortable with reference to that programme.

As regards the second claim, I have read through the sustainable aviation papers and still can not find anything that supports the idea that aviation emissions for all planes can be reduced to 22% of current levels by 2050. Like you, I am absolutely confident that the 22% figure is correct, as it is very basic mathematics (GCSE level and AS level). However, I can find no reference to this in any of the documents nor a road map for how this is to be achieved.

I appreciate that many months of work has gone into producing these targets, so there must be some clear road map somewhere. If you could send it too me, it would be excellent as I was hoping to set the excercise to my classes of optimising the various proposals to maximise aviation efficiency before unrecoverable climate change starts which is due around 2030. The work of this group would be a good template and without your road map, my students might get worried that climate change could be really bad.

Kevin Lister

--- On Wed, 10/11/10, Michelle Di Leo wrote:

From: Michelle Di Leo

Subject: Re: Aviation improvements to meet climate change, attn Rt Hon Brian Wilson

To: "Kevin Lister"

Cc: "somervillehugh" ,

Date: Wednesday, 10 November, 2010, 6:27

Dear Kevin

The statement about the commitment to improving fuel efficiency of new aircraft by 2020 is a European commitment made by ACARE ( several years ago. You are very welcome to contact them with any queries relating to how that has been set out and why they believe that is achievable. I am very comfortable with our reference to that programme.

The second statement refers to the figures set out in the Sustainable Aviation roadmap to which Hugh has already directed you. The figures show the relative contributions of the various ways (airframe, engines, biofuels etc) of reducing carbon emissions of aircraft which are projected to 2050 against a business as usual scenario. This scenario has as a baseline the current predicted growth in passenger numbers by 2050 (which is a trebling of current figures). The roadmap was produced after months of work and all members of Sustainable Aviation are signed up to it, including Rolls-Royce and Airbus. Again, I am very comfortable with our reference to that work.

Kind regards


Michelle Di Leo
20 Garrick Street


Tel: 020 3170 8294 Mobile 07734 101086

On 9 November 2010 23:28, Kevin Lister wrote:

Dear Hugh,

Thank you for picking up on this conversation so proactively and directing me to your site. I have read through all the documents. Unfortunately I can not find any that support the claims on the Flying Matters web site and which I could confidently put forward to my students. The claims on the Flying Matters web site that I want to discuss are:

• The commitment to improve fuel efficiency of new planes by 50% by 2020
• The committment to get emissions down to 2000 levels by 2050 despite a trebling of passenger numbers

Is it possible that Brian Wilson made a mistake and the justification is actually not there? As regards your reference to the SA being focused on UK aviation, does that imply that Brian Wilson's claims are for the UK emissions only or for international emissions as well.

Many thanks for your help and I look forward to your reply.


--- On Tue, 9/11/10, somervillehugh wrote:
From: somervillehugh

Subject: Re: Aviation improvements to meet climate change, attn Rt Hon Brian Wilson

To: "Kevin Lister"


Date: Tuesday, 9 November, 2010, 18:23


Forgive me for picking up on this. For Sustainable Aviation try and then key documents and you should find the documents, and more, that Michelle has referred you to. One key point is that at SA we work primarily on UK aviation which covers all flights departing from UK airports. For a more global view you should refer to IATA, which reflects the majority of the world airlines' views and ICAO, which is the relevant UN organisation for global aviation environmental issues.

Please note that the Sustainable Aviation web-site is in process of being updated. SA is a coalition of airports, airlines, aerospace manufacturers and NATS, in the UK.

I hope this helps.

Hugh Somerville

Programme Director
Sustainable Aviation

In a message dated 09/11/2010 GMT Standard Time, writes:

Dear Michelle,

Thank you for your prompt reply and the link to the sustainable aviation web site.

I have spent the entire afternoon looking through their web site and I can not find the "road map" that you refer to, am I still missing something?

Also to add to my confusion, I notice that on your web site, you say "committed to improve fuel efficiency of new aircraft by 50% by 2020." This is far too small to met the target that Brian quoted as fuel consumption has to reduce by 77.5% for all planes, not just new ones. Even more confusingly, your headline ignores the total fuel consumption of the industry which as you know has continued to rise ever since the Wright Brothers flew their first plane.

It would also be nice to know how likely you consider it that all new aircraft will have see a 50% efficiency improvement by 2020.

As my students are really concerned about climate change and still looking for a balanced debate can you clarify which of the above I statements I should be passing on to them?

Thank you in advance for your assistance.


--- On Tue, 9/11/10, Michelle Di Leo wrote:

From: Michelle Di Leo

Subject: Re: Aviation improvements to meet climate change, attn Rt Hon Brian Wilson

To: "Kevin Lister"

Cc: "Hugh Somerville"

Date: Tuesday, 9 November, 2010, 13:10

Dear Mr Lister

Many thanks for your email. The comments on our website represent the commitments made by the Sustainable Aviation initiative and are contained within the road map which they have published on their website (

If you have any further queries please direct them to Sustainable Aviation via Hugh Somerville (who I have copied into this email).
Kind regards


Michelle Di Leo
20 Garrick Street

Tel: 020 3170 8294 Mobile 07734 101086

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Letter to Flying Matters - just pointing out a slight flaw.

Dear Brian,

I was absolutely delighted to read the comment on your web site, where you say “the aviation industry has already committed itself to reducing its emissions to 2000 levels by 2050 against a threefold increase in passenger numbers. That is a major challenge but one which we are confident the industry can meet through a combination of technology, use of sustainable biofuels and operational improvements. The inclusion of aviation within a global deal on emissions is also a crucial part of this mix.”

As an aeronautical engineer and now a maths teacher, your comment has a particular resonance with me so I set my students the mathematical challenge of working out how much you would have to reduce plane emission to achieve this.

My class took an EU press release which reported "Aviation emissions are increasing fast – European aviation emissions increased 87% since between 1990 and 2006." My class has worked out that this equates to a growth rate of 3.989% per annum. They have also worked out that from 2000 to the time you made your statement, aviation emissions would have grown 47.8%, and the doubling time is 17.72 years.

To cope with the trebling of passengers that you advertise, the emissions would have to be reduced by a third, so in total aviation emission per plane would have to reduce to 22.5% of today’s levels, (calculated by 1/3 divided by 1.47). So you need to improve efficiency by a factor of 4.54 for all planes flying.

As an aeronautical engineer, I find it just a bit difficult to believe that this is possible. Could you explain to me how this will be achieved, as I must have missed something important when I did my degree.

My class have read about climate change and are very worried about its implications and the need for a balanced debate so they are really keen to hear your response.


Kevin Lister

Monday, November 01, 2010

Aviation and Climate Science

To get the answers you want, you simply ask the right question, and no industry is better at asking the right question than the aviation industry. Almost all air passengers will have been consoled at one stage or another by answering the aviation industry’s rhetorical question about why they should be targeted for criticism when they only account for 2% of anthropogenic CO2 emissions, and many environmentalists will have been pushed onto their back feet wondering how to counter this seemingly invincible argument.

In this essay we are going to unpick the 2% argument and put it into perspective. We will explain that the 2% is both out of date and it fails to tell the whole story as it does not take into account the growth in aviation that has been experienced since 1990, or the future growth that the aviation industry is trying to create. We will demonstrate that once the wider impacts of aviation are taken into account then its contribution to greenhouse gases rises further and we will further demonstrate that there are no technological solutions or alternative energy sources that will allow aviation to meet the massive cuts needed in CO2 emissions that are necessary to avoid runaway climate change.  Fundamentally, the only way we can avoid runaway climate change is for a massive reduction in excess consumption and excess travel.  

As stated above the 2% relates to 1990 IPCC figures and so is hopelessly outdated. Since 1990, the aviation industry has been growing between 5% and 9% per annum which is far higher than world economic growth. Applying this rate of growth to the aviations 2% contribution to anthropogenic emissions, it can be conservatively calculated that as of 2010 aviation’s contribution to total greenhouse gas emissions will have risen to approximately 4%.

Bringing these numbers closer to home and considering the proportion of aviation emissions within the UK total CO2 budget, Gillian Merron (Secretary of State for Transport) confirmed in 2007 that aviation accounted for 6.3% of total UK emissions. However this was with the incredible caveat that international emissions were limited to only outgoing journeys, as it is deemed too difficult to reconcile the full impact of international emissions. As international travelers outnumber domestic travelers by about 8 to 1, then the true figure of emissions to and from UK airports would be 11.9%. What has been done amounts to a cynical way of avoiding the most contentious issue of the day.

But even if we were to give the aviation industry the benefit of the doubt and assume that they kept their emissions at just 2% of total anthropogenic gases, then it would still be unacceptable as total manmade anthropogenic emissions are increasing at the alarming rate of 3.4% per annum. This is despite the much hyped low carbon technologies, carbon trading agreements and environmental campaigns.  When we apply a little bit of mathematics to a 3.4% compound growth rate, we see that the annual emissions double in approximately 20 years (see note 1) placing the planet’s CO2 growth projections well beyond the worse case scenario of the IPCC reports which has a doubling period of 30 years. So using the airlines own argument, that they remain at only 2% of total CO2 emissions, we would also be expecting their annual emissions to double in the next 20 years. This is bang inline with the predictions of emissions growth that environmentalists claims, but which the aviation industry claims are far too pessimistic.

The credibility of the claim that aviation’s emissions will double in just 20 years can be tested by looking at emerging events around the world. Just as the developing countries such as China want to eat more meat, then they also want more aviation. With predicted sales in China of 2,800 passenger planes in the next 20 years, China, along with India, are primary markets for Boeing and Airbus.  Recently, David Cameron was extolling the virtues of Britain as a long haul and thus high carbon holiday destination for the Chinese. In the UK, and elsewhere in Europe, all the main regional airports are pushing expansion plans with the expectation that they will be able to open up additional long range routes using the new Boeing 787. Meanwhile the EU has liberalised access to airport hubs with the open skies policy which has the express purpose of developing aviation further.

Now for a bit more simple but scary maths; because manmade emissions are growing at 3.4% per annum the total CO2 that we will emit in the next 20 years will be the same as all the emissions since the beginning of the industrial revolution (see note 2). This is absolutely terrifying as our climate is already unravelling with the current levels of CO2, and we have absolutely no way of knowing how it will behave when we double the CO2 loading.  To add to the terror level, this doubling will happen on a 20 year timescale, rather than the 250 year timescale since the start of the industrial revolution; so our planet will have virtually no time to absorb the surge in greenhouse gases that we are about to inflict on it.  This surge will occur when the scientific evidence is telling us that we must reduce our atmospheric CO2 to 350ppm to have a reasonable chance of avoiding runaway climate change. Today our CO2 emissions are at 390ppm and rising steadily. When we include all the other greenhouse gases such as methane and fluoride gases we are at 455ppm. We are already deeply into the danger zone, and worse, the rate of increase is increasing. If the rise of CO2 emissions continues on its current track, then by 2032 we will have exceeded 450 ppm of atmospheric CO2, which is considered the trigger point beyond which irreversible and catastrophic climate change is unavoidable.

The current situation is so desperate it is difficult to imagine a worse case. In these circumstances, it does not matter if an industry’s emissions are 2% or 20% of the total anthropogenic CO2 as everyone’s moral obligation must be to massively reduce greenhouse gas emissions over and above everything else. So the aviation industry’s argument that they should be allowed to continue business as usual because their 1990 emissions were only 2% of total anthropogenic emissions is a hollow claim and a cruel distortion of the facts

They also can not claim that they are being unfairly targeted, or that cuts can be made in other industries to offset their emissions.  While it is true that other manufacturing industries such as paper, steel and cement account for similar slices of the total greenhouse gas emissions pie, these industries are finding it equally as difficult as the aviation industry in cutting their emissions as they are as wedded to fossil fuel as the aviation industry. Lakshmi Mittal’s successful lobbying for extra carbon credits for his steel businesses, along with threats to relocate his steel manufacturing to China if not provided, shows they will fight just as hard and dirty as the aviation industry to maintain their right to pollute.

The fundamental fact is that the significant emissions cuts that we need can only be achieved by reducing output, and this is the crux of the problem. Which outputs do we target first and by how much - the manufacture of essential materials or the right to luxury travel for the rich?    

If we had an ideal world where new low carbon technologies came on line, such as renewables and safe nuclear to power our cars and houses, we would see the proportion of the total emissions from the high carbon industries increasing over time.  The aviation industry and its supporters are of course saying that they will also reduce their emissions by finding new technologies, alternative new fuels such as hydrogen and alternative energy sources such as biofuels, all of which will make the future a nirvana of green aviation and so they should be allowed to continue with business as usual today because tomorrow all will be well. This is a fantasy world fit only for dreamers.

Technology will never deliver planes that are so fuel efficient as to be considered “green.” To do this we would need fuel reductions in the order of 90%. This is impossible. The newest planes coming onto the market such as the Boeing 787 are only 10% more fuel efficient per passenger kilometre and there is nothing significantly better on the drawing board. Worse, this improvement is not used to environmental benefit; it is used for commercial benefit to fly more often and to further destinations. This will maintain the upward trend in total aviation emissions that has existed since the Wright Brothers flew their first plane and despite the continuous improvements in technology. We would be hopelessly na├»ve to believe that this relationship is suddenly going to change with the introduction of the next fleet of planes, especially when the Boeing 787 is the most successful plane at launch ever with over 800 orders confirmed and that Airbus’s flagship A380 super jumbo is being sold as a private jet to Middle Eastern billionaires.

As for hydrogen as an alternative energy source, it simply does not have the energy density necessary to power a plane and the energy needed to compress the massive volume of hydrogen would defeat the logic of the idea. Then, try explaining to the local residents of an airport that their houses are still safe when planes are taking off with massive fuel tanks of hydrogen pressurised to tens of thousands of pounds per square inch whilst aeronautical engineers are simultaneously challenged with hydrogen embitterment of key safety critical components such as the engines and fuels tanks on the planes.  An accident on a hydrogen powered plane would instantly transform it into a bomb so massive it would make the Hindenburg disaster seem like watching candles burning on a birthday cake.

The other dream world is that biofuels can be used to replace existing fossil fuels and airlines such as Air New Zealand have been pushing forward on this front.  Air New Zealand has pursued the idea of using the Jatropha plant, which is a weed deemed to be so poisonous and invasive that it is not allowed into New Zealand and instead has to be grown in developing countries that have little or no environmental legislation.

Despite Jatropha’s status as a poisonous weed, it is still quoted by the industry as being the knight in shining white armour; its supporters claim it can be grown in semi-arid regions of the world and without fertilizer, and because it is poisonous it does not compete with food supplies. How much longer does the industry expect us to believe that the laws of science can continue to be broken and that basic human rights can also be ignored?  Field experience supports common sense, and shows that if the Jatropha crop is not irrigated and fertilised, it will not produce fruit. The stupidity of the logic only increases when the end result is a large scale replacement of food crops and other ecosystems with a poisonous weed so in any future famine, neither the produce nor the land can not be transferred back to the food market.  Then there is the slight problem of being able to find all these semi arid unused parts of the world that the industry implies are so abundant. It is being achieved today by the appalling land grabs which are so prevalent in Africa. Calculations show an area well over twice the size of France would be needed to fuel just half the aviation industry at today’s levels of consumption – but we know from our basic maths that the demand will double, so in only 20 years we will need four times the area of France. This will happen when agricultural land is coming under increasing stress as climate change impacts are starting to hit much harder and quicker than predicted. At best, for all this damage we would only be cutting aviation’s emissions by half and with the current industry growth rates we would then be back at today’s totally unsustainable levels well within 20 years.

Having failed with Jatropha, the industry is pushing the idea of using genetically modified algae, but still there is no large scale proven production process and many of the ideas propose using the CO2 from the flue gases from power stations as a feedstock. This is not carbon neutral, as we simply use aviation to delay by a couple of weeks the time it takes for dirty power stations gases to be released into the atmosphere. Our objective with fossil fuel power stations must be to either close them or to use carbon capture – using the exhausts for biofuels is counter to all these efforts.

In additional to the CO2 emissions from planes, there are other greenhouse forcing gases that significantly increase aviation’s impacts on the environment. When these are taken into consideration, aviation’s contribution rises considerably above their 2% claim.  The two main factors are the impact of NOx gasses which have a warming effect of 400 times that of CO2 and the high altitude water vapour. 

With the NOx gases there is an essential compromise. To make a plane’s engine efficient and so reduce, its CO2 emissions, the engine must run as hot as possible and with as high a compression as possible.  But running an engine at very hot temperatures and high pressures causes the nitrogen in the air to burn with oxygen, and so there is always a compromise. You can either reduce NOx gases but increase CO2 or visa versa. To put it in perspective, while the total quantity of NOx gases is very much smaller than CO2, the warming impact is almost as great.  

Also coming out the aircraft engines exhaust is water. At high altitude, this causes the formation of circus clouds. While these to a certain extent reflect some of the sun’s energy, this is countered by the warming effect that they cause by preventing heat from the earths surface being radiated back to space. The total warming effect is highly positive, and again is estimated to be at least equivalent to the actual CO2. So in total, the combination of the NOx gases and high altitude vapour results in the uplift factor which is currently assessed as being between 2 and 4 of the actual CO2 impact, and is known as radiative forcing. The warming effect of cirrus clouds also destroys the rational of the hydrogen powered planes, as they produce even more water than conventional fuel and maximum efficiency a hydrogen powered plane has to fly higher, further accentuating this effect.

From the UK perspective, the result of the radiative forcing is that aviation’s impact on the environment rises from 6.3% to approximately 20% of our total greenhouse effect. When this is placed in context with our ambitions to create 20% of just our electrical power from renewables, it is clear that emissions from aviation will negate all the efforts from building wind farms and other renewable energy projects around the country.

The ongoing compound growth in aviation emissions, and the inability to create an environmentally acceptable alternative, will on its own prevent the UK from meeting its own targets as set out in the Climate  Change Act, even if every other sector in the economy went down to zero carbon. Try explaining to people who are loosing their jobs in the steel industry, or the old people that are living in the cold that their hardship is so the aviation industry can continue to send the richest in our society to holiday in the Caribbean and you will see the social fabric of the country almost immediately break down.

To finally complete the picture of the damage that aviation does, one has to look beyond the exhaust gases from the engines, and consider how aviation facilitates many other unsustainable industries.  To understand this, consider how the industry delights in explaining how important it is to the world economy and the things that it has enabled. The flip side of this claim is that without the aviation industry, we would not have obscenities such as Dubai on the edge of the desert complete with both indoor ski centres and the world’s highest per capita CO2 footprint or flowers being grown in Kenya which is one of the most food insecure countries in the world.

As well as enabling some of the most unsustainable industries and countries, the aviation industry requires its own industrial complex of fuel supplies, airports, factories and mines  to keep it going. This complex can only be managed with huge greenhouse gas emissions, none of which the aviation industry claims, instead these will be accounted to other industries such as manufacturing, oil industry, mining and the military. As we are going to increasing lengths to secure oil, such as developing the Canadian Tar sands, pursuing in Iraq the most energy intensive resource war ever and burning down the tropics for biofuels, enormous secondary emissions are created which will by far exceed the emissions directly from the planes.  Absolutely none of this is accounted for in the 1990 estimate of 2% of total emissions that the industry uses, but without this invisible greenhouse gas overhead being paid the planes will not fly.  

So as for the 2% claim –it has been prepared by those whose interest is to be economical with the truth; it is for dreamers and for those that are easily fooled; it is for the comfort of the passengers who read about it in the in-flight magazines as they fly over the millions of poverty stricken climate refuges; it is for governments to justify their support of one of the most environmentally damaging industries the planet has ever seen, and it is for the powerful elite on our planet who want to maintain their right to hypermobility.
Note 1 - Doubling time = log(2)/log(1.034)= 20.7 years

Note 2- Analysis of areas under a exponential growth curve: