The irresponsible face of capitalism

Ian Pearson MP for Dudley South and Climate Change Minister in DEFRA, has attacked the airline industry and RyanAir in particular for its recalcitrant attitude towards carbon emissions in general and the EU carbon trading scheme in particular.

I'm delighted that the minister with this brief is taking the issue seriously. At first sight, it's a loser as it's diffuse versus concentrated interest groups (the general increasing greenness of people versus the airline industry and the desire for a cheap holiday). I think, though, that it is rather more optimistic than that. People are genuinely starting to be concerned about the environment. You cannot say that a particular unusual weather condition is due to climate change, but increased frequency and severity of events you can. The severity is sufficient that issue is less diffuse and political parties are picking up on that.

There is another part to it; the pollution is not just carbon, but noise. A look at Mr Pearson's website indicates that opposition to the expansion of Wolverhampton airport is important enough to be on his list of five pledges and is the most specific of the five. Heathrow, Stansted, Wolverhampton and many other airports are finding increasing opposition to their expansion and, for now, they are at least being held in check. The relationship between expanding airports and more flights is easy to see.

A nation-wide and, hopefully, continent-wide high-speed rail network would alleviate a lot of the problems. I read somewhere - and I know how bad it is to say something like that and not cite/link, but I can't find it - that planes only take less time for journeys of more than five hours by plane. Trains also remain too expensive while planes benefit from exclusion (for now) from the EU ETS and receive tax breaks on fuel oil.

Moreover, it's not global warming that people talk about but climate change. I don't know where the move happened and whether the semantic difference affects people, but linking carbon emissions to the entire gamut of their consequences - freak weather - and not just more heat makes it a lot easier to understand the immediate relevance. Maybe this is the flavour of the moment, but there is the possibility, if people continue to see what's at stake and that it can be avoided without hideous consequences, that we can 'do something about it'.



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