Brisbane airport has been planning to build a new parallel runway for some time, and today’s Courier-Mail has a range of stories on the possible impacts. There’s four separate stories on the Courier-Mail website (here, here, here, and here, (plus the cartoon).
They are also attempting to make more use of the online format, providing an “in depth multi-media report” on the issue, with video interviews and graphics. It’s quite a good outline of various aspects of the issue, although unfortunately it starts off with a rather misleading ‘videoshopped’ version of an aeroplane flying very low over a suburban street – much lower than does or will occur with the Brisbane airport.
I am a lifelong resident of inner Brisbane, and I can understand why people living in the vicinity of the airport may be concerned about the possible noise impacts of an extra runway. It is important that they get the full facts from the Brisbane Airport Corporation, the media and government bodies. However, I think a much bigger issue with the airport expansion, which has the potential to affect absolutely everybody, is what the predicted huge increase in the number of flights will mean for greenhouse emissions.
The Brisbane Airport Corporation predicts a doubling of passenger numbers in 20 years from 15 million in 2004 to about 22.2 million by 2012 and more than 35 million by 2023. The proportion in the rise in flights in and out will be similar.
The economic benefits from an expanded airport will be significant for Queensland, but we cannot ignore the fact that a huge hike in air traffic means a huge hike in emissions.
I know the airline industry is doing some research into lower emitting aircraft, but this is unlikely to compensate for the continuing growth in air travel worldwide.
Air travel has very significant greenhouse impacts. According to this site,
There are other effects beyond fuel-based Carbon Dioxide that also add to global warming. These effects include Nitrogen oxides that convert to ozone at high altitude, contrails, and ice clouds. These effects are very significant. When the best available estimates of these additional warming effects are included, the global warming impact of air travel is approximately 2.7 times that of fuel alone.
I say all this as someone who spends more time in aircraft than the vast majority of people. I’m not sure what the solution is, but we certainly cannot continue to ignore this aspect of climate changing activity.
According to the calculator on this site, every time I fly from Brisbane to Canberra I am responsible for the equivalent of 0.67 tonnes of emissions, which I can purportedly ‘neutralise’ by paying $14.16 towards funding climate friendly projects. I am not sure of how scientific sites like this are, but offsetting emissions is the main way at the moment to reduce the overall impact of air travel.
The costs of this might need to be built into the cost of travel in some way, although to date most governments have resisted a mandated impost along these lines. In the interim, voluntary measures are likely to become more popular. The Guardian newspaper in the UK offers a way for people “to pay to balance out your share of your flight’s emissions.”
Perhaps airlines could start offering a voluntary greenhouse offset levy to the price of tickets – although I suspect they might not want to raise people’s awareness too much about just how greenhouse intensive air travel is.