Monday, August 20, 2007

Virtual Flying

It's just the beginning.

Protesters at Heathrow are getting banged up protesting the fact that government and business continue to act as if climate change doesn't exist.

Here's the story from Reuters:

LONDON (Reuters) - British police with batons skirmished with groups of climate change protesters on Sunday near the headquarters of the operator of Heathrow airport.

The scuffles in a field close to airport operator BAA's building came after largely peaceful marches from a camp where campaigners, who want to draw attention to the impact of aviation on global warming, have been massing all week.

BAA said the airport was operating normally and there was no disruption to passengers. About 200 marchers made it to the BAA car park where there was a strong police presence. Some protesters pitched tents and were planning to stay overnight. Police chased another group into fields, hitting some with truncheons, before ringing them. (clip)

Scientists say air transport contributes to global warming, and the carbon dioxide gas and water vapor emitted by aircraft are four times more potent at high altitude than at sea level.

The British government says it is committed to tackling climate change and plans to set legally binding targets for cutting CO2 emissions -- but it also backs an expansion of air travel, which is set to double in the next 25 years.

Earlier, marchers with carnival-style floats and speakers adorned with flowers blaring music left the camp with a banner saying: "We are armed ... only with peer-reviewed science."

The climate change activists have been camped out for a week near Heathrow, west of London. Organisers estimated there were 1,000-1,200 protesters taking part in the protests. more

And here is a piece from the Christian Science Monitor

Must we quit flying to save the Planet?
By Mark Rice-Oxley

LONDON — For the hundreds of climate-change activists who have camped out near Heathrow Airport for the past week, there is only one way to reduce the carbon footprint of aircraft: Stop flying so much.

"Aviation is a luxury we can live without," said a protester named Merrick. Booming air travel, he said, is multiplying greenhouse gases just as the climate-change imperative starts to bite. "It has to be scaled right back," he said. (clip)

The problem, climate experts say, is that current projections indicate air travel will grow 400 percent in the same period.

There are alternative fuels. Concepts such as hydrogen-powered aircraft are considered to be decades away. But serious work is being done on biofuels as an alternative to kerosene in aircraft.

Entrepreneur Richard Branson promised last year to funnel all profits from his air and rail companies into a new business, Virgin Fuels, that would pay for development of biofuels.

In April, when Virgin Atlantic ordered 787s, the airline also announced an environmental partnership with Boeing that includes a joint biofuel project aimed at developing sustainable fuel sources." more

Towards the end of the story there is this line:

"Some experts think similar personal carbon budgets — rationing — may be the solution."

Let me repeat something I have said before. "The only thing worse than a deregulated carbon economy is a regulated carbon economy. That is why we must develop an advanced post carbon economy now.

I remember the first time I flew. It was on an electra turbo prop. The first time I went to Europe it was on a gigantic prop plane. Back then, the airline industry was just taking off.

Of course planes can fly on other fuel besides number 2 fuel oil.

There is a professor at Baylor who has been proving it for a long time. And perhaps he and the Bransons of the world will be able to transform this young industry.

Except for the police state rules, the invasion of privacy, and the horrible food, I rather like flying. But, sooner than we think, a lot of business trips are going to be replaced with virtual meetings where identical room spaces are projected creating a pretty good illusion of actually being there. This kind of virtual conferencing will become more and more commonplace as we all begin to reduce our carbon footprints.

If you serve the same food and the waiters are dressed the same, you can even sit down and have lunch together.

Don't laugh.

It will be better food than you get on the plane.

And you won't have to take your belt and shoes off. (or be wanded)

And your carbon allotments will be saved for going someplace,

where you really want to be.


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