Thursday, March 09, 2006

War on the atmosphere: military aircraft emissions

Low-flying aircraft above our polytunnel Insult to injury: George Monbiot's latest piece on aircraft emissions prompts this post; something I've been considering for some time. It is, in turn, prompted by the daily screech and roar of military aircraft over this 'peaceful' country haven in north Wales. Quite apart from any other considerations, this daily air and noise pollution is a continual affront to our attempts to live here as sustainably as possible. With one economical car (65mpg average and 116 grams/kilometre CO2 output), a wood-burner, low-energy lights, insulation and central heating used sparingly, our lifestyle is as low carbon as you can reasonably get in the carbon-fuel-dependent UK. Probably these aircraft burn up what we use in a year in just a couple of hours... but I don't know. Who does?... Or is it secret?

Aircraft emissions and the atmosphere: Okay, here's the issue: we know aircraft emissions are really bad for the environment, especially those at high altitude. Just how much fuel do the airforces of the world squander on training flights (or war games for big boys and their very expensive toys as I'm uncharitably inclined to regard them after the tenth jet in twenty minutes)? What proportion of total aircraft emissions do they represent? I have no idea but I'll bet it's more than you might think. No doubt it's a closely-guarded military secret. And what's it all for? That gross euphemism 'defence' (Orwell warned of this) is bandied about by politicians everywhere. But what's the point of it all (and upgrading nuclear 'deterrents' come to that)? In what way are these scary warplanes and their undoubtedly skilled pilots increasing our security in Britain? Consider little Costa Rica appropriately about the size of Wales: This little country doesn't have an airforce or any military force. The country is still there... and it has land borders with its neighbours making invasion easy, unlike seabound Britain.

Is war more important than climate? The biggest problem facing the planet now is climate change. Most of us, including politicians, would agree with that. So who is about to attack the UK which requires a large active fuel-burning airforce to repel? Terrorists? But everyone knows that terrorists' weapons are suicide bombers and cars packed with explosives. They don't use aircraft - except as flying bombs, one infamous day, in 2001. So why must we put up with this squandering of limited resources on things like military aircraft and the resultant pollution which endangers everyone, not to mention useless nuclear weaponry? Or is there another agenda we ordinary folk don't hear about, like invading Iran - as if the disaster of the US/UK invasion of Iraq wasn't lesson enough? Or maye it's just successive UK governments' desire to have access to the 'top tables' with their American friends, perpetuating the absurd post-colonial notion of 'punching above our weight' and the so-called 'special relationship' which must be nurtured at all costs? That's a lot of questions but how can I get some answers? I have asked my MP to enquire and he is doing so.

Lives are at stake here.