It’s not green enough

Gayle looks at the response of state and big business to the environmental crisis, and finds both wanting.

An acrimonious exchange of views between Environment Minister Ian Pearson and 'flamboyant' Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary has put carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions back in the spotlight.

Criticising airlines who he thought were not doing enough to help counter climate change, Mr Pearson branded Ryanair "the irresponsible face of capitalism." Mr O'Leary responded by describing the Minister as "foolish and ill-informed”, adding that he "hasn't a clue what he's talking about".

Although many people see the increase in air travel as a major contributor to the rise in 'greenhouse gases', Mr O'Leary claimed that road transport and power generation are the real causes of climate change.

So there's the answer. Don't cut down on the number of flights you take each year - put a coat on indoors, take cold baths and stop driving to work.

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Ironically, a few pages on in The Guardian, which originally published Mr Pearson's criticisms of some airlines, was an article explaining that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is investigating the possibility of offering cheap flights into space.

He is says his company is working towards lowering the cost of space flight so that “many people can afford to go.”

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Well why not? Why stop at encircling the globe with aeroplanes and putting acres of countryside under runways? Why not carry on to establish space stations and rocket launchers so that people with more money than sense can take the most ultimately pointless trip, going up into space to view the planet from outside?

Next stop - holidays on the moon, under an Eden Project type dome.

The bottom line is - will it make money? Presumably, Mr Bezos thinks it will, and that the research and development costs will be recouped. Just like the airlines, public demand and the prospect of profit appear to carry more weight than possible damage to the planet.

Even world governments' attempts to cut emissions can turn a profit for big business. Carbon trading (when companies buy 'credits' from others who are producing less pollution) has apparently produced big profits for some companies.

The idea of carbon trading seems, on the face of it, to be spectacularly senseless. The fact that one company is not generating so much pollution as another does not lessen the impact of the emissions that ARE produced.

If your neighbour agrees to let you put your excess rubbish in his bin for a small fee, you are still going to be taking up just as much space in landfill. In order to ease the situation, you must generate less rubbish.

Ultimately, the government needs to encourage change at a grassroots level.

Curbs on the cost of public transport are needed if people are to be encouraged to use it, as anyone reeling from the recent major increase in rail fares would agree. Council tax cuts for households that improve their energy efficiency, incentives to install wind or solar power units and punitive road tax for the most polluting cars would help.

Figures released this week show that, although below the national average, each person in the East of England creates as much CO2 in a day as a person in the developing world will in a year.

There is no painless way to cut back emissions - but air travel (not to mention space flights) must return to being a rare luxury not an everyday event.

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