Another perspective on the global warming debate


We all want to protect our planet.

We all wish to have an environmentally friendly lifestyle. This is vitally important for us, our children and their children. We all abhor the exhaustion of the earth’s natural resources, the uncontrolled population growth in some nations and the extinction of numerous species of flora and fauna.
We can all agree that even if we are not Greenpeace supporters, we are still very much concerned about the fate of our beautiful Blue Planet, as Earth is often referred to.
We shudder, when we view swathes of Rain Forest in South America being chopped down to allow a couple of years of limited farming. We want world organisations to do something significant about that phenomenon.
We wince when we drive through the Ruhr district in Germany or see pictures from the USA, China, the UK, India and Japan, of factories spewing out tones of toxic smoke.
Everybody is worried about global warming, but and there is a big but... the travel industry must not be blamed for the ills of the world.
When government ministers throughout Europe want to introduce taxes on air travel and passengers to ‘ease’ carbon dioxide emissions, we cannot just sit back and allow them to kill off the travel industry.
Nowadays there are rent-a-crowd demonstrations telling us not to fly, but to take the train. Pilot associations have pointed out that to take a train from London to the south of France will contribute more carbon dioxide emissions than flying the same route.
This concentration on air travel as a major reason for global warming is not only sinister; it is dangerous as it threatens thousands of jobs and future careers in the travel industry.
I think we ought to support the views of people such as Giovanni Bisignani, the director general and chief operating officer of IATA, who has pointed out that air transport contributes only about two per cent of global emissions. By the way, that is about the same percentage as grass-chewing cows exude globally. The latter is my comment, not Bisignani’s.
The air transport industry supports eight percent of global economic activity and in the past decade, Bisignani emphasises, airline fuel efficiency has improved by twenty per cent. Today’s modern aircraft consume on average about 3.5 litres per 100 passenger kilometres, similar to a small compact car.
Bisignani also points out that 80 per cent of emissions are related to flights over 1,500 kilometres. A journey for which there is no alternative mode of transportation. 
The arrival of the Queen Elizabeth 2 in 2009 to a permanent mooring position at Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah as a new hotel and sightseeing icon will naturally always remind us of those wonderful days when even businesspeople sailed to their meetings, however many years ago that is.
It is worth noting that Gulf airlines such as Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways are all operating the latest fuel-efficient aircraft with billions of dollars worth of orders for the even more ‘green’ Airbus A380 double-decker jets.
Bisignani has also recently urged aircraft manufacturers and engine producers to plan for zero-emission aircrafts by 2050. IATA understands and accepts the dangers of global warming.
Not only the airline industry but Gulf residents as a whole have been targeted by the so-called eco-experts: “Look at all those wasteful four-wheel-drive vehicles, look at their desalination plants and all the air conditioning plants…”
The air-conditioning and desalination plants are vital for survival in the region, a fact, I suppose that is difficult to fathom for someone living in a cold and rainy climate. Thus, will travel help to broaden understanding?
I always reply to such criticism by pointing out that industrialised nations spent more than a century pouring out toxic emissions into the atmosphere, while Gulf countries have had less than 50 years of a modern lifestyle, with hardly any heavy industrial plants even today, apart from a few aluminum smelters. Indeed, the Gulf countries have a lot of IOUs in the climate pollution bank.
I am certainly not advocating that we should forget about global warming. On the contrary, when I read that the Great Conveyor Belt – which brings warm waters from the Pacific Ocean including the Gulf Stream – is slowing down and that if it stops the northern hemisphere could return to an Ice Age, I am truly frightened.
What I am saying is, if you work in the hospitality or transport businesses, remember before you grab an anti-emission placard and start marching, you might be putting yourself out of a job.
Speaking Out by Jonna Simon