Time to End Cheap Flights 450

African cities generally use less electricity than their European equivalents, as people own fewer appliances and have greater need for thrift. Jet engines are essentially the same as turbines used for electricity generation, and the engines on a single jumbo would power a small African city had they generators attached. Remember that next time you fly.

Worldwide aviation emissions pump slightly more pollution into the atmosphere than the entire United Kingdom economy, and aviation emissions continue relentlessly to increase year after year. Air transport is simply far too cheap for the damage it causes and the resources it consumes. You cannot cause more damage to the Earth’s atmosphere with £30 worth of resources, than by buying a £30 Ryanair ticket to Barcelona. If you spend that £30 on fuel for your diesel car, or on coal and burn it in your garden, you will not come close to the damage caused by your share of emissions on that Ryanair flight.

The fundamental reason air travel has expanded to be so harmful is the international understanding that tax and duty is not charged on aviation fuel – unlike vehicle, train or maritime fuel. Even citizens of Saudi Arabia or Venezuela no longer can access fuel as cheaply as you do in effect when you fly.

The notion that it is impossible to tax aviation fuel, as a plane could fly off and fill up elsewhere, is nonsense. There would be a cost to that flight scheduling, and in any event countries could tax planes on untaxed fuel landed in their fuel tanks, not to mention the scope for international agreement on enforcing fuel levies.

The fact that aviation fuel is not taxed is indeed not the sole reason why it is, ludicrously, cheaper for me to fly from Edinburgh to Bristol or London than get the extremely more fuel-efficient train – for which fuel is taxed. The farce and greed of rail privatisation is also a large part of it. But the fuel tax question undoubtedly is a very major factor, and the sole reason you can fly to Barcelona for £30.

The question has become mixed with notions of democratisation of leisure. This should be tackled head on. There is no human right to go by air and have a sun soaked holiday on the Med dirt cheap. The Earth cannot afford to indulge the pollution caused by massive air tourism. The unpopularity of saying this means that few people in politics ever do, but it is nonetheless true. In view of climate change, for the public to expect Ryanair fare levels is obscene.

Mass air travel for leisure needs to be stopped. Maritime, rail and other more eco-friendly means of international communication need to be encouraged. As mankind has not even the political will to tackle these most straightforward of measures on climate change, I really do begin to despair for the future.

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450 thoughts on “Time to End Cheap Flights

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  • Kula

    Stay away from islands, especially if you get seasick. If you need a plane to get anywhere, like from Funchal to Lisbon, or Stronsay to Kirkwall, you are scuppered before you begin. If you can’t get there overland, stay away.
    If you use a washing machine on a regular basis, you can’t really get on your high horse about that cheap trip to Funchal, can you? There is major cognitive dissonance on the part of all washing machine fans. Sure the forests and warming and losing habitat and yes, it’s down to massive numbers of us not wanting to voluntarily go into that good night….of the unwashed.

  • ADHD

    Raising prices won’t change the behaviour. Rationing of flights is what is required.

    Compulsion is the only way to deal with the emissions.

    The aim of pricing is just to allow the rich to continue and ban the poor, but it won’t work. Prices won’t rise by anywhere near enough to make a difference. Or prices will have to rise so high that it will be an obvious issue of one rule for the elite and rich and a total ban for the underclass and poor.

    • Kempe

      Yes rationing by price. Never fair for the reasons you lay out and quite often ineffective. People want their week in the sun once a year and unless priced entirely out of reach will make sacrifices elsewhere or borrow to pay for it.

      • ADHD

        Hi Kempe,

        I do not mean rationing by price. Something like rationing by an annual allocation of air miles which you could accumulate. And I do mean that everyone will be flying much less than once a year.

    • Clark

      I agree. The only way to reduce fossil fuels from being burned so fast is to extract them slower.

      If us better off folk cut back on consumption, in a market economy, we reduce demand. The price falls in response, permitting poorer people to burn it instead. This spreads the fuel usage to poorer people, but emissions stay the same.

      • CanSpeccy

        All that’s needed to reduce fosssil fuel consumption is a carbon tax, which can be raised progressively until carbon emissions fall to whatever is deemed an acceptable level. Under such a regime people retain the choice as to how they will spend their money, and since fuel is a major, if not the major, component of the cost of air travel, a carbon tax will crimp air travel more than, say, the consumption of broccoli.

        There are, however, many decisions over which the public as individuals will never have much control, and these top-down decisions need to be taken much more intelligently, and with much less corrupt influence, that at present. In particular, I am talking of land development and urban design. Nothing is more wasteful of energy and resources than the grotesque process whereby thousand upon thousands of acres of prime farmland are converted annually into dismal suburbs from which people commute daily for miles on clogged highways, the sole purpose being it seems to line the pockets of land developers.

        What’s needed are high-density residential developments close to where people work and where facilities for rest, recreation and the general enjoyment of life are provided, thereby greatly reducing the need for mass migration to Majorca or wherever Brits go to spend their free time.

        Indeed, without development of new forms of urban living, the West seems destined to become increasingly uncompetitive with the Asian nations that have adopted massively more dense forms of urban living.

        • Clark

          I agree with all that. But if you tax carbon consumption, you need virtually every country to join in. Maybe easier to tax extraction. Maybe in the long run other technologies will undercut fossil fuel prices anyway, but it’s how to prevent doing irreversible damage in the mean time.

          • CanSpeccy

            It’s the same problem with taxing extraction. Some countries may do it, but others instead will simply seek greater market share.

            An essential accompaniment to the carbon tax is a countervailing duty on goods from countries without a carbon tax. The countervailing tax punishes free riders, giving every country an incentive to impose a carbon tax.

            But in theory, restricting production has identical economic consequences for consumers as the carbon tax. Because the supply is restricted, prices rise, as with the carbon tax. However, whereas a carbon tax results in increased government revenue, which can be deployed for the public benefit, an artificial restraint on production would simply raise profit margins on whatever quantities of energy producers were allowed to produce.

        • ADHD


          Raisng carbon tax “progressively until carbon emissions fall to whatever is deemed an acceptable level” won’t work. You are trying to game the laisez-faire free market and manipulate people’s behaviour using punishment.

          I predict that the carbon tax would have no effect and would need to be continuously raised and raised until’ the entire world economy falls off a cliff edge with the pain and disasters that would entail; including nations falling apart, the end of international co-operation, huge pain and misery for humanity and at the end of it all no real progress on tackling carbon emissions.

          A planned economy approach, involving compulsion and rationing, is what is required.

          • Herbie

            “I predict that the carbon tax would have no effect and would need to be continuously raised and raised until’ the entire world economy falls off a cliff edge with the pain and disasters that would entail; including nations falling apart, the end of international co-operation, huge pain and misery for humanity and at the end of it all no real progress on tackling carbon emissions.”

            I think that was the idea.

            They’re Malthusians, essentially.

            Everything else is a design to that end.

            Too many peeps, you see.

          • CanSpeccy

            Short of global government, how you gonna get the Russians, the Saudis, the Venezuelans and the Texans all to agree to compulsory reduction in income? It ain’t possible.

            As for your claim that a carbon tax would’n’t work, it has already been demonstrated to work:

            “In 2008, the province implemented North America’s first broad-based carbon tax, proving that it is possible to reduce emissions while growing the economy. Between 2007 and 2015, provincial real GDP grew more than 17%, while net emissions declined by 4.7%”.

          • ADHD

            Things such as profit, income and money are not real. They are artificial constructs. They are not necessary for governing human life on earth, they have only proved useful by to now.

            With regards to Russian, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia you are referring to the income from oil that no one else would be buying. There’s nothing they could do about it.

            I did say that the carbon tax wouldn’t work, but I didn’t say it would have no effect.

            The trouble with experiments/observations of a social behavioural nature/phenomenon is that the outcomes are highly variable and always change. Experiments/observations involving useless/placebo drugs can frequently produce positive observable results. These weird outcomes are the results of irrational collective social behaviour that are not determinant. Give a tax break to a limited number of people, then their behaviour changes; but give a tax break to everybody and nobody’s behaviour changes. The cause of a change in behaviour might appear to be based on an incentive or punishment but actually another factor (or combination of factors) was at play.

  • ADHD

    Craig has been the first person in the media that I have ever come across raise the issue of compulsion (“Mass air travel for leisure needs to be stopped”).

    Compulsion is the only practical way to deal with man-made climate change and we need to take that onboard.

    • Clark

      The compulsion has to be applied to the extraction companies. Instead, as things stand, the Western alliance fight wars on their behalf – out of taxpayers’ money. This has to be one of the largest subsidies in all history.

    • Stu

      He only means to compel poor people from flying though.

      He’ll be in Ghana, India and Turkey as much ever.

    • Michael McNulty

      I was cynical about man-made global warming until I heard an explanation from an environmentalist who I think was a qualified biologist. He spoke of the “gas stove effect”. If you put a pan of water on a stove it doesn’t boil immediately, it takes time. Likewise when you take the pan off the stove it doesn’t cool immediately, that takes time. He said the problems we face now is the gas stove effect on a planetary scale which has had two and a half centuries to release gases which heat the earth. I think he had a point.

      Since the beginning of the industrial revolution maybe 250 years ago we were burning mostly coal (some wood) in steam engines for factory power, but also in trains, ships, traction engines, home fires etc; and we were using lots of coke for metal production. We’ve now had two and a half centuries for that pan to boil, ie the earth to heat up. Coal-power has been replaced by various internal combustion engines but they all use fossil fuels. And as well as fossil-fuel electricity production many people like gas for heating and cooking.

  • Trowbridge H. Ford

    I would think getting the cars off the roads, and improving public transport would work better and faster.

  • Mist001

    Is this being driven by a private agenda? Ryanair gets specifically mentioned three times, and their £30 flight to Barcelona gets mentioned twice. The generalist term ‘budget airlines’ could have been used and there’s no mention of Easyjet.

    So, what’s the beef with Ryanair?

    • craig Post author

      Simply that I read an article on Ryanair’s baggage charges that reminded me I was thinking of doing an article on excessive flying. Purely illustrative, I could just as well have said Easyjet. Barcelona also purely illustrative – I have no idea if there is a specific £30 fare to Barcelona.

      • James

        It might have been better to keep this article on excessive flying in abeyance until acquisition of a more sophisticated grasp of the physics. For example, turbofan engines in aircraft are entirely different from turbines used in electricity generation, being optimised to produce thrust rather than torque. A couple of Pratt and Whitneys might (at a push, haha) generate enough electricity for your (extremely) small African city, but only because such places consume next to no electricity “due to thrift”. Bit of an own goal, there?
        However for producing thrust, they are extremely efficient, far more so than internal combustion engines. If a family of four drove to Barcelona in a car burning duty-free unleaded instead of avgas, the fuel burden would still be greater than flying precisely because modern turbofans are a triumph of engineering efficiency.
        Paring away the tabloid tautology, and getting the thermodynamics right, this article could be (badly) précised thus:
        Aviation spirit should be subject to heavy international taxation, and citizens of wealthy nations should desist from inessential, long distance travel if that involves burning fossil fuel. Rail travel, because of its fuel efficiency, should however be promoted, possibly by subsidy. By contrast, the thrify use of electricity currently (haha) extant in parts of Africa is useful as a vade mecum for future policy thinking on fossil fuel consumption in developed nations.
        Provocative, certainly, if not exactly pithy… but, as you say, scarcely a vote winner, neither in the West nor the sub Sahara.
        Not one of your best, Mr M: perhaps better sticking with the Skripals, et hoc genus omne!

    • ADHD

      Ryanair is the term used for cheap flights just like Google is the term used for internet searches.

      Ryanair don’t mind it when it’s name is used in positive connotations with cheap air flights so they’s just have to accept it when negative connotations.

      What Ryanair do is morally criminal and their business model needs to be made a criminal offense.

      • Herbie

        “What Ryanair do is morally criminal and their business model needs to be made a criminal offense.”

        Hard to think of a business model to which that doesn’t apply, these days.

        But yeah, Ryanair has always got a particularly bad press in the UK, going way back.

        Wonder what that’s all about.

  • CanSpeccy

    “Mass air travel for leisure needs to be stopped.”

    No we just need a carbon tax, as the EU I believe is contemplating.

    Moreover, the carbon tax should be accompanied by a countervailing duty on imports from countries without a carbon tax, thereby protecting home industries from unfair competition, while encouraging countries without a carbon tax to institute one, so as to capture revenue that otherwise flows to foreign governments.

      • CanSpeccy

        No it is a tax on combustion, which is a rational and effective mechanism to limit carbon emissions, unlike the heavy hand of Venezuelan-style Communism, which destroys all rationality in economic affairs and leads to national bankruptcy.

        • ADHD

          Issues like taxation and bankruptcy are irrational illusions that cannot tackle man-made climate change.

          Issues like taxation and carbon trading will not avert disastrous climate change. You need to wake up.

          • CanSpeccy

            You need to stop being a dogmatic Commie and wake up to the fact that prices affect consumption. That’s the only real law of economics. That is why, when most of the British adult population smoked cigarettes, the Government was always very careful, when raising the tobacco tax, not to raise it so sharply as to reduce the total yield. Likewise, the difference in fuel economy between US and European cars can be chiefly attributed to differences in fuel tax rates.

          • ADHD


            The longer society fails to adopt the measures I am promulgating the more severe those measures will have to be when they eventually have to be implemented.

            I am not actually a communist and these steps that I promote go somewhat against my natural ideological inclinations. But that’s what needs to happen to tackle man-made climate change.

        • Ishmael

          “You need to stop being a dogmatic Commie and wake up to the fact that prices affect consumption”

          Only for those that can’t afford it. The idea the market is some rational way to organise society. We see the results over & over. These fixes are not fixes.

          & to change the prices is a version of “communism”. Or state intervention. It’s as stupid in the overall scheme of things when it’s the overall system that’s in place that put us in this position in the first place. We didn’t decide to develop these things, nobody asked me if I want roads or aeroplanes.

        • pretzelattack

          lol at venezuelan style communism. what led to their problems was heavy handed u.s. pressure.

          • Charles Bostock

            I was wondering how long it would take for someone to blame something on the Americans. Venezuela managed to ruin its economy essentially by itself (same for Greece).

      • CanSpeccy

        Actually, that article explains why a carbon tax is the best idea, but that to be most effective it must be intelligently applied. Most people automatically reject it because they think of it as simply a new tax that will reduce their spendable income. However, a carbon tax can be applied on a revenue neutral basis, meaning it would allow other taxes to be reduced. For example a reasonably effective carbon tax of say $50 to $100 dollars per ton would make possible the complete freedom from income tax for half or maybe two-thirds of the lowest paid section of the population.

        But the author is wrong in suggesting that the revenue raised might well be spent on government schemes to cut carbon emissions. The whole point of a carbon tax is to make carbon emissions reduction possible without the heavy hand of dumbarse bureaucratic intervention. If, instead, the government spent the revenue raised by a carbon tax on carbon emissions reduction, we’d see every kind of fraud and ludicrous waste imaginable from projectors for the extraction of sunbeams from cucumbers to those promising with adequate public support to undertake the renutrification of shit.

        • ADHD

          Nonsense. Anyone reading the article would immediately see that a carbon tax has no hope of making any effective change on carbon emissions. A carbon tax just allows the existing system (which created all the problems) to stay in place.

          The only effective way to tackle manmade climate change is a planned economy approach including compulsion and rationing.

          • nevermind

            Agreed, but it has to egalitarian, not one rule for some whilst all of us are compelled/forced to comply.

            Im sure you agree.

    • Michael McNulty

      Carbon-tax credits will be misused. First they’ll create a market for them and like bond-traders some people will become super-rich off them. Then they’ll creative a futures market for carbon tax emissions and get even richer. But the biggest misuse of them will see first-world companies trade in them to shift their carbon-cutting obligations elsewhere. Ultimately the blame for carbon emissions will fall onto places like Africa and India who are too poor to off-set any obligations. Ironic, really, considering so many of them use animal dung for fuel.

  • Ishmael

    As a vision of the future I much preferred shelley’s vision of balloons. But I suspect some airship version of Electric aircraft https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_aircraft more “practical”.

    An issue is that (like the mobile phone) these things are developed for the 1%, who are not happy to go slow, or blow off course. Where as i’d be fine ending up in Spain rather than Africa for instance, Or vice versa. …It’s a very controlling vision some have.

        • Muscleguy

          Your comment is rather ironic when we look at your response below where you take a label and extrapolate all sorts of malign things from it with no evidence other than your own prejudices. A classic base for all conspiracy theories.

          If you will not trust anybody then you cannot conclude anything except that you are paranoid.

          • Herbie

            “Your comment is rather ironic when we look at your response below where you take a label and extrapolate all sorts of malign things from it with no evidence other than your own prejudices.”

            You’ve clearly missed my point.

            I argue against extrapolation from the phrase. I argue against any use of such a compromised phrase.

          • Clark

            Herbie, I also note that you just assume I’m “going wrong”. By what criteria are you judging that? Disagreement with you, perchance?

          • Clark

            Herbie, I suppose you could come up with some other phrase, but presumably that would just get “weaponised” as well.

            “Conspiracy theory” captures the essence of these duff, untestable theories because they all rely on some immense, undetectable conspiracy that can extend its reach and power to cover all and any objections to the theory.

            (Sorry, I accidentally posted the preceding comment in the wrong place.)

        • Clark

          By practising your skills in critical thinking. I found Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science and Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion very helpful.

          • Herbie

            What exactly is Dawkins’ argument that God is a delusion.

            What does he mean by God.

            Does he mention Logos. The rational order of things.

            It’s in Science surely that we meet with the Logos, the God.

            We can submit to it, work with it and its bounty or fight it.

            Fight to control it, direct it.

            That’s what it’s all about.

            Dawkins isn’t even part of the debate.

            He’s just a populist science writer talking about things he knows nothing about.

          • glenn_nl

            Herbie: Why don’t you read the book and judge for yourself? I have. Well worth the effort, and if you don’t find the cost is worth it, borrow it from the library.

          • Clark

            I don’t really care what Dawkins means by ‘God’, and I don’t agree with him about that anyway; I think his idea of ‘God’ is far too simplistic.

            But the book presents a lot of arguments to help develop critical thinking, and it covers various aspects of human psychology, particularly regarding why people believe things.

            Another good book for helping understand our own biases is Irrationality by Stuart Sutherland, 1992. Again, I’m not hoping you’ll believe the arguments presented; I’m asking that you consider them, reason and think about them.

            Us humans don’t come with an instruction manual. It’s up to us to work out how we function for ourselves, and we’re better equipped to spot others’ biases if we can understand our own.

          • Clark

            Herbie – I also note that you just assume I’m “going wrong”. By what criteria are you judging that? Disagreement with you, perchance?

          • Herbie

            “I also note that you just assume I’m “going wrong”. By what criteria are you judging that? Disagreement with you, perchance?”

            No. I’m quite explicit above, aren’t I.

            You’re advocating a book titled The God Delusion, by someone who knows nothing of God.

            So, the problem is clear.

            Should have called it, The Dawkins Delusion.

    • CanSpeccy

      you could talk to James Hansen, former Director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Science, a man who has been called the Father of Global Warming Science. At least you can visit his blog. I think at times, he is somewhat over the top, but he is a very able man, and honest, and a firm advocate of the carbon tax.

      • Herbie

        Space Science, eh.

        What’s that all about.

        Kinda like a new version of Reagan’s “star wars” military project.

        The Russians are big into this as well.

        Armed missiles that can orbit the Earth before being activated. Launched from the Triad, or now from an orbiting satellite.

        They’re really so much more technologically advanced now than they were a few decades ago, and since. Israel has had a similar transformation in the high-technology sphere.

        There have been suggestions that US technology is being nicked.

        • CanSpeccy

          Space science is any science you can do in space or in the study of what is in space. The Goddard Institute for space science (GISS) under James Hansen was largely focused on observing the earth from space, hence the interest in climate change.

          Hansen is the biggest name in climate science with over 20,000 citations to just his most cited half dozen papers.

          If you want to flip Hansen off, you might as well admit to being among those who call global warming a hoax.

          • Herbie

            “If you want to flip Hansen off, you might as well admit to being among those who call global warming a hoax.”

            Yeah, sure,

            I don’t mind engaging with the science or the history.

            I get a bit bored with people who take these things as articles of faith, using religious themes, “heresy”, “denialism” etc, to undermine questions.

            That stuff shouldn’t form any part of critical inquiry, but strangely it does.

            Everywhere you look.

            This is not a time of critical inquiry.

            It’s much more like a period of religious fervour.

            With some deeply disturbing beliefs.

          • Moocho

            Anyone who quotes NASA is someone who places faith in known, proven charlatans, liars and thieves. To prove this, beyond all reasonable doubt, take a good look at this official NASA image of Apollo 14, “on the moon”. https://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/apollo/apollo14/hires/as14-66-09277.jpg Rub your eyes, look again and, please correct me if I’m wrong, but it appears to be made from grey paper, some kind of gold foil, and sellotape. We’re being screwed so hard it hurts. Very funny though, at the same time, that highly intelligent people will defend this organisation while maintaining a straight face

          • Herbie


            The other thing is, where is the power source to lift it up to the orbiting mothership.

            And where’s the space for the buggy thing.

      • Clark

        This is beautiful.

        Assuming the batteries are lithium, I suspect there is insufficient lithium on Earth for this to scale up to current passenger flight volumes. If we ever get the long awaited battery technology breakthrough, I’d love to see the money wasted on armaments and war re-purposed to building the infrastructure required to make this practical for all. The sooner we start, the sooner it’ll come true.

        • Sharp Ears

          Lithium is prescribed for bi-polar disorder/manic depression as it used to be called.

        • Muscleguy

          The oceans are chock full of lithium. ALL our current sources of lithium are dried up seabeds. Since lithium is neither created nor destroyed in the functioning of lithium batteries old batteries can be recycled into new ones.

          Lithium batteries fail through simple thermodynamics and because the cathode/anode gets furred up or some disorder disturbs the electrolytic basis. But the lithium is still there.

          Same with the lead in lead acid batteries which is why we recycle them now and to keep lead out of places like landfill where it can leach into the water.

          There are other sources of lithium. Rock salt which is also from dried up former seas also contains it. There is no reason why we can’t bolt lithium extraction onto those places where salt is formed by evaporation of seawater. The lithium depleted salt is then delivered for consumption. The manic depressives can continue to receive pills of it. When they excrete it it will inevitably end up in the sea from where it can be extracted again.

          If you base your lithium extraction in sunny places which do salt evaporation you can power it with solar panels or even solar thermal stations. The geography of the places used usually prevents things like tidal power being deployed, locally anyway. It might well be deployed elsewhere of course.

          When Comalco proposed to build an aluminium smelter at Bluff on the South Coast of NZ’s South Island the government committed to building a hydro power plant to power it. That is located a couple of hundred km to the west in Lake Te Anau where lake water is taken down a tailrace drilled through a mountain and emptied into a Sound on the other side. The lake level is kept within strict environment parameters monitored by a local civil society group with real powers.

          Just an example of what can be done. Carbon was burned to drill the tunnels but no land was flooded, the lake level was not altered. Other carbon was burned to build the power lines to Tiwai Point for the smelter but otherwise the system burns no carbon now. The mining of the Bauxite in Queensland, Australia and shipping across the Tasman is external to NZ. As far as NZ is concerned it is clean and green. It happened in the late ’60s and continues today.

          The campaign to keep the lake level was NZ’s first big environmental cause celebre.

          • Clark

            Thanks for that; most encouraging.

            Er, I forgot to mention. The rare earths used in the electric motors’ permanent magnets might be in short supply too.

    • Kula

      Thanks for the reminder. New technology is a far better option, and more sustainable. I think this argument on taxing air travel is a kind of displacement activity. As long as we go round and round the mulberry bush, we do not invest in new technology, and we accept this rather limited ‘market’ view ie there is only so much energy available, so you have to be taxed at every opportunity.

  • Clark

    Of course if neoliberalism didn’t force people to work so much of their time, people wouldn’t have to charge around so fast in their relatively minuscule leisure breaks. Better to travel than to arrive?

  • Philw

    Totally agree that everything possible should be done to cut air travel.

    I would be more than happy to see aviation fuel very heavily taxed. Yes this is hard on the poor, but the very poor cannot afford to fly anyway, and we are quite happy to see all manner of things rationed by price.

    However I cannot see any way that any measure to limit air travel can be imposed unless it is done internationally. The economic effects are simply too great.

    • ADHD

      If you really think that the economic effects are too great (and they are considerable) then nothing can be done to avert disastrous man-made climate change (because every polluting industry is powerful and has great economic effects).

      All airlines need to be nationalised then it’s all much easier for nations to organise rationing.

  • Republicofscotland

    “As mankind has not even the political will to tackle these most straightforward of measures on climate change, I really do begin to despair for the future.”

    Bang on, humanity will not change unless it’s forced to change, and that won’t happen anytime soon.

    Our best bets are to hope that more people holiday at home, pre-Freddie Laker style. Or the development of clean ommission engines in the near future, unlikely though.

    • Ishmael

      Point taken, but my humanity is ok actually. I don’t own a car & have flew only a couple of times. Nobody forces me, it’s simply a better, more enjoyable & healthy way to live.

      “From the moment you settle comfortably behind the wheel―
      Your pelvis fondled by replica flesh panting with static―
      It increases stress readings, poultices the ductless glands,
      Slowly marinates the body of even the most ‘experienced’ driver with adreno-toxins,
      Noisily generates a wide range of cardio-vascular pressures,
      As well as doubling up as a dinky orgone-accumulator stimulating trash sexuality.”


    • ADHD

      Hi RoS,

      You mentioned something that practically everything believes will happen or hopes for and that is the belief in a breakthrough in a wonder technology such as nuclear fusion.

      To me this feels a bit like Hitler hoping for a wonder weapon while Berlin is burning all around him. There are constant stories about breakthroughs in nuclear fusion since I was kid (and I’m retired now) and nothing ever comes of it.

      In truth I probably hope (believe?) we will be saved by a wonder technology (it works on a deep psychological level). But as you say it is very unlikely to happen and is a dangerous delusion (one to which I am not immune).

          • Ishmael

            I think we can make a lot of use of it at that relative safe distance. That we haven’t already is a scandal imo.

      • CanSpeccy

        Free, or very cheap “non-polluting” energy could be a disaster in its own right. It has been cheap energy that has transformed the world and driven the global population explosion — while for some reasons the most advanced nations, European and Asian, have begun to die off. Another boost to energy availability could give us a world that, until now, only science fiction writers have envisaged, e.g., Azimov’s dystopian story about a society where the entire earth was built over to accommodate countless billions, who have never seen the light of day, in buildings many stories deep.

        • Clark

          The solution is right there in your own comment, but you’ve interpreted it pessimistically:

          “the most advanced nations, European and Asian, have begun to die off”

          Affluence, education and empowerment, particularly of women, decrease the birth rate. Those populations are not dying off; they still have kids, but a bit below the replacement rate. Until the most recent generations those populations were increasing. Now they’re heading for stability; they’ve just overshot a bit and gone into temporary contraction. You always get oscillations in a parameter when it changes.

          There’s another limit on cheap energy production though:


          • CanSpeccy

            Re: cheap energy

            A few years ago I did a similar calculation to the one you link to and concluded that the earth could support about a trillion people, assuming the oceans were covered with floating structures. I think that allowed about 40 square meters per person for food production, based on a photosynthetic energy conversion of 5%. That would leave 40 meters per person for solar cells, yielding about 6 kw per person.

            However, such ideas are nonsense. Obviously the age of the mass man is past. The elite have no use for more than a few hundred or several thousand persons each, security guards, concubines, housekeepers, gardeners, game-keepers and plus techies to keep the personal space shuttles, yachts, etc. in good order.

            The good old days, are now over. The tyranny of the very rich will soon be upon us.

    • Ken Kenn

      Yes it will be quite an interesting future:

      ” Deidre and I flew to Greece for £47 but the cost of the oxygen mask when arriving in Athens far outweighed
      the price of the ticket ”

      The bad news is that we are beyond the beyond.

      I don’t think that we can get it back now.

      The future is simple:

      We can buy some time – but we cannot turn the clock back – the damage is done and can’t be undone.

    • Ishmael

      In fact ROS. I’m forced to do the opposite. This system forces you to take. Forces you to do things you wouldn’t otherwise.

      It’s got sod all to do with humanity. Who have always resisted. All the way back to the conquistadors. Don’t put this on humanity.

  • Trowbridge H. Ford

    don’t think that enough attention is being paid to the shifting patterns of tourist travel, and air traffic has to return somewhere, somehow.

  • Republicofscotland

    Here’s a wacky proposal.

    Build the Canada, to Greenland, to Iceland to Scotland roadway linking the America’s to Europe and Asia. Add in that all countries must build dedicated high speed tourist trains, specifically for holiday makers.

    All countries, albeit Australia, New Zealand etc must contribute to the building pot, because all countries will, receive tourism from the set up.

  • Skye Mull

    Maritime travel may not be a good alternative. Shipping is the biggest (and not discussed) emitter of air polluting global warming gases. Ships burn the lowest grades of oil and have, for the most part, uncontrolled emissions.

    • ADHD

      It just gets worse.

      Far from being an alternative the use of maritime travel needs to curtailed and rationed as well.

  • Technos

    I’m not sure where you get your stats on energy per mile from, but it’s really not as simple as you seem to think.
    According to a fairly well-referenced wikipedia article (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_efficiency_in_transport) Air travel is noticeably lower in emissions by most calculations compared with cars (1.9 MJ/passenger-km vs 2.3, perhaps a bit lower in EU). Buses (surprisingly) appear not to be a massive improvement (to my surprise. Rail is better still of course, but not by a whole load (, and (cruise) ships considerably worse (1.6 (intercity) – 1.8 (commuter). Cruise ships are far worse (around 5.8), but I guess cross-channel ferries etc may be better due to higher passenger density – even so, I suspect conventional ships are never look great. I do not know if those numbers take into account electricity generation efficiency, fuel transport/distribution cost, or energy/carbon costs of infrastructure and vehicle energy input/lifetime, or even directness of route – which I would estimate generally work out better for air than for road or rail.

    So, would you propose to ban mass road travel for leisure too? Or is the base argument that the speed of air travel makes longer distance travel acceptable – in which case a utilitarian would end up with an ‘annual leisure miles allowance’ or something equally Orwellian.

    I totally agree on the insanity of taxing the energy for everything _except_ air travel though. It wouldn’t be too hard to level things out a bit, or even to positively favour rail, which would probably be a good thing.

  • james

    interesting idea to combat the burning of fossil fuels.. i have thought of it before.. i have the same attitude about stopping wars, but no one seems to listen to me.. i like your optimism here craig..

  • Tony_0pmoc

    Time to End Cheap Flights????

    It’s all right for you writing that Mr Murray

    Can we please see your accounts as promised?

    You can keep the Tenner.


    • Ian

      Only people who have no idea what they are talking about can say that. The evidence is overwhelming and all around us.

      • Herbie

        “The evidence is overwhelming and all around us.”

        You can’t just look around you, say it’s getting warmer and then blame Man for the change.

        How does the science conclude that Man is responsible for whatever effects they claim to see.

        I’m always a bit concerned when media is pushing an issue so relentlessly. Remember for whom they work.

        Anyway, I think local environmental damage is the much more obvious problem, and corporates, govt and media don’t seem so concerned about that

        And even when they do, the plastics thing, they always blame the peeps and immediately talk about taxing them even more heavily.

        The corporates are never to blame.

        I mean, why don’t they offer paper bags

        Would it be a money thing.

        Or, look at fracking. The hypocrisy is plain and clear to see.

        But it’s not really hypocrisy, is it. It only is if you believe anything they say.

        Follow the money and their true values are revealed.

        • Clark

          Go look at the scientific case. There’s a huge amount to it, but as much as I’ve looked at seems like proper scientific work, not a fix-up. A whole host of different disciplines contribute to it.

          “How does the science conclude that Man is responsible for whatever effects they claim to see”

          Carbon comes in different isotopes. The isotope ratio of carbon in fossil fuels, the atmosphere, plants, and the oceans etc. can all be measured. That tells you where that carbon has come from.

          The media are pushing it less hard than the scientific institutions, and the media got on board later, seeming reluctant; I think their science correspondents have been pushing them. The governments and corporations have moved the slowest.

  • Shatnersrug

    I’m going to play devils advocate here. I think restricting international travel will create more division it will lead to a huge rise in nationalism which will be exploited by increasingly authoritarian governments to great the worst kinds of xenophobic propaganda, this will eventually lead to a world war that will create more pollution and destruction than the world has ever known.

    International travel is this most horizon broadening thing humans can do, it ought to be available to everyone. Craig’s idea will result in an even more smug elite swanning around the air whilst they whip up resentment.

    If the technology pollutes then the technology is wrong. Government ought to be investing in an alternative.

    There now you can all jump on me.

    Anon1 will love your suggestion though it’ll do half his work for him

    • Ishmael

      Sure, travel broadens the mind. But those essentially trapped by the system, who if they are lucky get a couple of weeks on a beach? …That’s not really horizon broadening travel. And we see the results.

      We have it already, But most don’t have the freedom to really use it. Similar to the view of the net through a phone & FB.

    • ADHD

      I don’t feel the same way about international travel. I just feel its tourists going to what are essentially fake destinations. My view is the world got along just fine before the advent of air travel.

      Yes, I guess Anon1 would be pleased, immigration is likely to be greatly reduced.

  • Kerch'eee Kerch'ee Coup

    It long seemedto me that thedevelopment of aircraft ,particularly since the1930s, has been driven/financed by military considerations. This has left to the gas-guzzling, fixed-wing, jet -engined tin cans nosw polluting the atmosphere.As Ishmael earlier pointed out, there is a better case for airships relying on non-combustible gases. We formed a group called Friends of the Air inthe early 1970’s to campaign for airship development.Obviously , they would be slower , but hopefully more pleasurable.Unfortunately , the major developments have been in drones because of their military/control applications.
    BTW India for long levied aviation fuel charges at both state and national levels, although there has been some talk of their reduction/abolition.

  • Sharp Ears

    All of the foregoing is irrelevant. Planet Earth is going to hell in the proverbial handcart. Gaia has given up on us.

    • Observer

      Hardly surprising if you can’t look at the moon and relate to its beauty, without trying to name it. You’re in a mugs game, as is your guru, Craig, on this one.

    • Michael McNulty

      I always think if Mother Nature had a conscience she will say no more higher intelligence when our lot has gone. I think she’ll limit higher intelligence to pack hunters like wolves or marine animals who don’t have the appendages to do damage.

  • Denis Mollison

    Good article, thanks.

    The benefits of taxing energy rather than income were being argued before climate change was recognised as a crucial problem. I recommend `Not by Money Alone’ by Malcolm Slesser and Jane King (publ. by Jon Carpenter, 2002).

  • kashmiri

    The majority of passengers, on quite a lot of routes, are corporate employees. Raising fares even 10-fold is not going to reduce pollution thereon in any significant way. Perhaps prices of some goods might rise minimally, but that’s it.

  • JOML

    Completely correct, Craig, and we should all stop buying fruit flown in from the other side of the world. Buy local and seasonal.

  • glenn_nl

    Very good article. This is probably because middle-class and upwards people like to spend their money on breaks abroad, so cowardly politicians are terrified of hitting them with taxation. The Mail, for instance, would have an enormous tantrum if what they see as the only people in the country that actually count get hit with a new tax.

    The same goes for ludicrously big vehicles – the tax they pay does not represent the huge amount of pollution and road damage they cause (not to mention congestion), so should they not pay vastly more in tax? Not according to the owners of these things, who happen to include senior staff at pretty much all our national newspapers.

    • Ishmael

      As long as there are these distinct class interests it will continue.

      Nobody is focusing on the roots. It’s going to take international coordination to even begin to nail these fcukers down.

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