Sunday, August 19, 2007

climate change pt. 2: planning a holiday?

Following on from my last post here's a good article by Mark Lynas about the Climate Camp at Heathrow in the New Statesman, calling it the "most important protest of our time". He's the author of the book "Six Degrees" which has been on my to-read-list ever since I heard about it and which details the possible catastrophic impact of just a few degrees.

so here we go:

"Probably the single most polluting thing you or I will ever do is step on to a plane. Take that tempting return flight to, say, Thailand, and you become immediately responsible for about six tonnes of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere - three times more than is likely to come from any other activity you do in the year, including driving and heating your house. This is why aviation is the most bitter and divisive issue in environmental politics today.

There is almost no consensus anywhere in this debate. Even my last paragraph will have caused annoyance for some: my six tonnes figure for the Thailand flight includes a 2.7x multiplier to account for the aggravating impact of greenhouse gases released by aircraft high into the atmosphere. However, citing scientific uncertainty, airlines choose to ignore this extra warming effect: if you use British Airways's carbon calculator to reassess my Thailand flight, it returns a figure of "only" 2.16 tonnes."

I have to admit a tempting return flight to somewhere near Thailand has been something I've been discussing with myself for a while for various reasons. I've never been to Asia, and I feel it's something I should do at least once, right? But I've also looked at other things, closer to home. When I'm planning a trip away I don't always have a clear idea of what I want, there might be people who are a lot more organised but often I just want a general destination, possibly a base too, and then take it from there a day at a time. In my job as a TV listings writer I often come across travel documentaries about interesting sounding places and areas. Last week there was a programme about Rungholt, a medieval port and town on the North German coast that was swept away and vanished in about 1362, a German Atlantis so to speak that has captured the imaginatin of many people. So I decided to find out how a trip to the area could look like. The internet, full of options. So there's a holiday island near there, part of a larger group of islands just south of the famous island of Sylt, plenty of nice accomodation (the above pic is the garden view from a holiday farmhouse), beaches, walks, seafood restaurants etc. And how do I get there? I worked out that there used to be, up until quite recently, a ferry service from Harwich (an old port town on the Essex coast which isn't far and which I've also wanted to visit for some time) to Husum on the North German coast, again not far from where I wanted to go. So that would have been potentially perfect, right? And guess what? Sometimes in 2005 they stopped the service and one of the reasons they cited was that they couldn't compete with the cheap airlines anymore. I wish I'd done this research earlier now, and there may be other ferry options still available (you can still go slightly further up the coast to Esbjerg in Denmark) but it just goes to show how the rise of the cheap airlines has changed the travel options available. It's become too easy to fly, and more difficult, not to mention often more expensive, not to fly. And at a time when people should fly less, and it should be the other way round, alternatives to flying get even cancelled. Well, I haven't given up on this trip yet, we'll see. . .

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