Aviation and the green hysteria

Last September this column warned that environmental activists were starting to pose a serious threat to aviation. Not just general aviation, but the entire spectrum of powered flight.

At the time, we took flak from readers who seem to think, mistakenly, that the human contribution to atmospheric carbon affects global warming and that no price is too high for stopping it.

Global warming is happening and will not be stopped by puny but costly political “solutions.” Mankind isn’t causing it, the hysterics of Al Gore and his distortions of science to the contrary notwithstanding.

The biggest problem we face, and not just as an aviation community, is that junk science and misinformed opinion are debasing real science and — here’s the really scary part — politicians see votes in the hysteria it encourages.

In Europe, where the “greenies” have had a disproportionate influence for years now, the assumed impact of “greenhouse gasses” has become the central theme of parliaments and bureaucracies. Their onerous regulations already have airlines squawking about the cost and the Bush Administration filing official protests.

The United States Congress, however, has not been far behind the European parliaments. Right now, Rep. Edward Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, is calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to state whether it supports regulation of aircraft emissions. Markey, chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, calls aircraft emissions “a looming threat of climate catastrophe.” Talk about hyperbole!

Markey sounds a lot like the Frenchmen who put together a road map for governmental decisions, regulations and initiatives intended to make France environmentally virtuous. They described aircraft as “highly polluting machines” and gave no time to anyone capable of telling them the truth. Their proposed green metamorphosis also would ban the construction of new airports while touting the merits of a carbon tax on all flights within or over la belle France.

Are we, in the United States, likely to become victims of such political ignorance? If you think not, read Markey’s letter to the EPA, which you’ll find at GlobalWarming.House.gov/MediaCenter/letter?id=0010. He comments that the United States has done nothing to reduce aviation emissions while “ministers from the European Union’s 27 member states have…voted to impose a cap on CO2 emissions from all planes arriving or departing from EU airports…” Not incidentally, the EU rejected the idea that international flights be exempted, and ignored threats of legal action from other countries, including the United States. Markey seems to find that quite noble of them.

Markey specifically refers to “heat-trapping emissions that cause global warming,” which not only is unproven, but is disputed by an increasing number of scientists brave enough to oppose the Chicken Littles in the Gore camp. Markey isn’t alone, by any means. Five states, the City of New York and any number of environmental groups also are jumping on the EPA with both feet, demanding that it treat aircraft emissions as noxious pollution.

Quite ignored by all of them is the scientific fact that the entire aviation spectrum, world-wide, produces slightly more than 2% of all man-made emissions in a year. That’s less than one day’s worth of pollution from India or China and insignificant compared to nature’s own emissions from volcanoes, wildlife, farm animals and numerous other sources.

Dr. William Gray, professor emeritus in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at Colorado State University, is the man GAN consults about each year’s forthcoming hurricane season. He states that “the advocates of warming tend to be climate modelers with little observational experience. [They] are not fully aware of how the real atmosphere and ocean function. They rely more on theory than observation.”

He points out that it is the warming theorists who have the ears of the media, however, where alarmists always seem to get the biggest play. Do you remember when NASA claimed, last year, that the warmest year on record was 1998? Of course you do. That was Page One news. What was nowhere near Page One was the agency’s quick “oops” when it realized that the warmest year on record actually was 1934. Indeed, NASA restated, six of the 10 warmest years on record were in the 1930s and ’40s. If nothing else, that snafu calls into question how much faith to put in climate change models – and in sensational and deceptive journalism.

What Rep. Markey, the European Union and the Gore groupies are pushing for is the squandering of economic bounties built up over two centuries, in return for small — if any — environmental benefits at gigantic cost.

Among those bounties is aviation. Flight, more than any other single factor, has made a global economy — indeed, a global community — possible.

Let us not squander that on the altar of the new secular religion of environmentalism.

Thomas F. Norton is GAN’s Senior Editor.

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