“Dawning of a new ice age” – meaning one without it

Ah, irony. Or unbelievable stupidity. Opinions differ. But check out that photo


The opening of a blue ice runway in Australia’s Antarctic territoryThe opening of the air link between Australia and Antarctica, decades after it was first imagined, is belated but timely.

The secrets held in the ice have never been more valuable to humanity, revealing the planet’s climate history and exposing the minutia of unfolding change. As the American writer Barry Lopez observed on his Antarctic journey, it has become “a place from which to take the measure of the planet”. this week opens the last true wilderness to a new era of scientific exploration.

The story has to be read to be believed – 20 to 30 flights during the summer season. I wonder if their first observations are “Gee, what a lot of con-trails Antarctica has. Ooh, the ice sure is melting fast down here.”

From the IPCC’s report on aviation and the global atmosphere, we learned that air travel makes a contribution to climate change well above the fuel it burns:

Averaging all types of aircraft of different age and trip length and aircraft capacity factors, each passenger-mile flown emits 0.566 pounds of carbon dioxide. This does not include two other important impacts of commercial aviation on climate. The first is that commercial aircraft emit nitrous oxides (NOx) and other pollutants at high altitudes.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that such pollutants increase the climate impact of flying by a factor of at least 2.5 compared to the combustion of jet fuel alone. Second, air travel results in additional greenhouse-gas emissions from energy used in airport buildings, facilities, baggage systems, airport service vehicles, concession facilities, aircraft fueling, airport construction, and air navigation and safety operations.


3 comments so far

  1. Sarah on

    Posts like these really make me bristle.

    The other day I heard a person on MTV say that Priuses clean up the environment. *lol*

  2. zooeygoethe on

    “Bristle” is somewhat non-specific. Prius-owners also annoy me:


    Do you object to my objection to flying and landing enormous jet-fuel-burning, jet-fuel-dumping, contrail-forming, surface-temperature-warming jets (an A319, to boot) in the Antarctic? ‘Cause that’d be a weird objection, I have to say.

  3. Sarah on

    I don’t object to your objection. I agree with your objection. By “bristle” I meant that I’m annoyed by situations where people claim to be helping but are doing more harm than good in the long-run, like driving a Prius, even though they don’t emit as much Carbon into our air, they still Do help further the problem of global warming. Riding a bike is far superior. But then again, a Prius is far less damaging than flying to the antarctic. No matter what we do though, we have an ecological footprint. No one is free of impacting our planet.

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