British pilots challenge emissions myths

The British Airline Pilots’ Association will present to the British Government research which ‘challenges the myth that air transport is the major cause of growing carbon dioxide emissions.‘The research report - ‘Aviation and the Environment ’ - examines the true impact of aviation on the environment and ‘deals with the half truths and untruths’ told by those who attack air travel and make passengers feel guilty about taking a flight.

‘We were determined at the outset to concern ourselves only with the facts, and what is clear is that aviation has become a scapegoat for global warming,’ said Captain Mervyn Granshaw, Chairman of BALPA which has in its membership 85% of Britain’s 10,000 airline pilots.

‘BALPA accepts the world has a problem, we do not number ourselves among the sceptics. Something certainly has to be done about the rising level of carbon dioxide emissions and we will play our part,’ he said. ’ But we cannot accept the false accusations our study exposes.’

The report will show, for example, that while it is true that trains are less polluting than aircraft per passenger per kilometer that is not true of long journeys over 800 kilometers and it is not true of the new generation of high speed trains in use on mainland Europe and soon to come to Britain.

And the European Commission says that EU flagged ships are fast becoming the biggest source of air pollution. In the year 2000, the Commission says, EU flagged ships emitted almost 200 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, significantly more than from EU aircraft.


‘Yet no-one is calling for restrictions on high speed train travel or for an end to ocean cruises,’ Captain Granshaw said. ‘And no-one is calling for any dramatic cutback in car travel, the biggest polluter of all transport modes. In the UK we are embarked on another major road building programme.

‘Air travel has just been an easy target. But not any more.’

World air travel actually accounts for only 2% to 3% of global carbon dioxide emissions according to the International Panel on Climate Change and while air travel is proving more popular, carbon dioxide emissions will not be more than 6% by 2050 - a tiny amount compared to the big polluters.

Captain Granshaw added: ‘Our report clearly shows that technological advances now being researched will cut aircraft emissions still further. It would be inappropriate therefore, and premature, to restrict air transport at this time. The damage that would be done not only to our industry but to tourism and to the economies of developing nations would be enormous.

‘Our message to all air passengers is to stop feeling guilty about flying. Passengers going by high speed train to the south of France would be responsible for emitting more carbon dioxide than if they had flown there.

‘We are now going to debunk the myths about air travel and spell out the facts. We are presenting our report not only to Government, to scientists, politicians and European institutions but to environmental lobbyists like Friends of the Earth because we want feedback, and hopefully we can move to a consensus. This is too important an issue to be reduced to the slogans that some campaigners and politicians have been using.’