A Flying Leap From Climate Change

Here’s something on my EuroSavant Twitter timeline that made me sit up and take notice: “Low-Cost Air Tickets are A Catastrophe, From Which Only Legislation Can Save Us”

To be sure, this comes from the Copenhagen-based Dagbladet Information, generally considered to be oriented to the Left (and that in Danish terms!). And the guest-columnist for this particular piece is one Lauritz Korfix Schultz (@lauritzschultz), a high-school teacher.

But since when has one’s station in life necessarily blocked anyone from putting together a cogent argument, an alarming and convincing warning? This comes in particular after a “scorching” European summer (and elsewhere within the Northern Hemisphere) with drought everywhere and the widespread outbreak of forest-fires.

Schultz focuses squarely on commercial aircraft flights and the substantial contribution they make to ever-more CO2 in the atmosphere, to a greater greenhouse effect that is gradually heating the Earth. Yes, there is a growing realization here, with increasing coverage (at least within Scandinavian papers) of those who resolve never again to fly, out of concern for future generations. Admirable, for sure, Schultz says, but hardly enough: it is rather time for national governments to intervene to at least make flying far more expensive, in order precisely to drive down demand and ensure that ticket prices finally accurately reflect the damage they enable travelers to inflict on our common environment.

That is something pretty daring to come out with, particularly in August, towards the end of the vacation season when so many have made use of those opportunities to travel far, and cheaply, by air. So many can, and so many do: as Schultz writes, “What previously had been exclusive to and reserved for the few, now are goods to which everyone has access.” Remarkably, it is cheaper these days to fly from Copenhagen to Berlin than to take the train from there to Denmark’s second city, Aarhus. (And flying is always faster.) “Hanoi is the new Harz Mountains,” Schultz notes, “Bangkok the new Ballerup [a suburb on Copenhagen especially noted for its cycling facilities] and Boston the new BonBon-Land [a Danish amusement-park].” What is more, not only are up-and-coming generations expecting to find offered to them the same smorgasbord of traveling destinations – or even more – but so are emerging middle classes from developing countries, most especially the Chinese.

It’s Already Low-Cost Flying Hell!

In one sense, though, this strike against low-cost flights is not so daring, given the increasing frustration they apparently bring to their customers. This is not something Schultz himself mentions, but the increasingly dire conditions at airports and on-board the planes themselves (at least if you don’t enjoy a first-class ticket) is clear to anyone following the press, such as this recent treatment by Germany’s national radio station, Deutschlandfunk: “Hell in Heaven.” Such conditions ultimately just reinforce his point, as they are the result of infrastructure spending lagging behind rising demand for low-cost flying spurred by those sinking ticket prices, together with new consumption standards of flying off to party for a weekend in, say, New York City, Buenos Aires, etc. etc. Here we read of one researcher pegging the contribution of low-cost flying to climate change at a minimum of 5%, and as he further says:

That is in fact still a problem, as long as low-cost flights are so scandalously cheap, as long as we have no tax on jet fuel, no CO2 taxation and not even any VAT [on flight tickets] and that is hard to imagine, every product in Germany and in Europe has a VAT placed on it, only not flight-tickets, all that arises out of considerations from the 50s and 60s when we told people that flying was the greatest, that everyone should be sure to do it.

That’s hardly the case anymore: no one should really do it, is Schultz’s message, not unless it is really necessary, not if we collectively want to try to retain a livable Earth for as long as possible into this century. Unfortunately, this is still a hard argument to make: hard to make in a world, as Schultz wryly relates, where the same Lefty paper in which he is published has previously asked a reporter to go gauge the effects of flying on climate change in various parts of the world, by flying out to see, of course! Hard to make in a world where the Danish government still sets its policy to encourage flights in and out of Kastrup, the country’s main international airport, because of the supposed economic benefits those bring.

Short-term benefits, possibly; but there are no long-term ones. And there can be no more relying upon well-meaning “woke” individuals to rein in the volume of commercial flights. What Denmark needs – what we all need – are courageous legislators who can see the catastrophe heading straight for us in the not-too-distant future.

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