Flying should be taxed as other forms of transport

Perjantai 18.8.2023 klo 17.49 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Flying is estimated to cause several percent of the greenhouse gas emissions. Its influence on climate is much worse than the emissions, because the gases are emitted at high altitudes. One would consequently think that because there is a sore need to combat climate change, steps would be taken to diminish the effects of flight traffic on climate change. Two such steps have commonly reached the news. First, the possibility of passengers to pay extra to compensate for flying. The compensation is them used to pay either the protection of forests or planting trees. The funds obtained by the compensations are currently so small that it can be said to have only conscience-cleaning effect. Second, an increasing proportion of the fuel, kerosine, is made from biowaste or plant material instead of being fossil fuel. However, the so-called biofuel does not decrease the production of carbon dioxide in the flights, it only decreases the use of fossil fuel. It appears that electric airplanes will at most be responsible for short distance flights in the near future. For long distance travel one needs to ask the traveller if the present-day speed is really necessary. If not, zeppelin-like aircraft could replace a lot of the airplanes and fuel consumption would decrease radically.

However, the biggest change that should be made is that air traffic should be taxed as other traffic forms. Today fuel of airplanes is completely free of taxation throughout the world. As a consequence, air traffic is subsidised, e.g., in Finland approximately 20 times more per customer than environmentally friendly train traffic. And this is true at a time when politicians say that they are trying to get people to diminish travelling, if it has large carbon footprint. Yet they do not use the tax instrument, which would also make fairer to use different ways of transport. It is quite certain that all the nation states say that this cannot be done, since that would generate unfair competition in favour of countries that do not tax their flights or maintain tax level low. However, this is what EU is for. The European Union, which is also otherwise front runner in climate questions, could decide that all European flights would have a common fuel tax. One could try to get a world wide agreement; it should be relatively easy, if climate change is taken seriously.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, carbon footprint, fossil fuels, air traffic

Ecotourism - can tourism ever be ecological?

Keskiviikko 18.1.2017 klo 12.30 - Mikko Nikinmaa

During recent years something under the name ecotourism has been the most rapidly increasing trend in tourism. The name has been used of all kinds of trips when the destination has been outside the normal tourist attractions and the object has been to visit some nature site. Thus, in many cases for example cruises to Greenland and Antarctica are advertised as ecotourism. In those instances it is easy to say that the travel is far from being ecological. In the easily disturbed Arctic and Antarctic ecosystems such cruises are already one of the biggest causes behind environmental contamination.

Similarly, safari tours to see the big game in South Africa are named ecotourism. While every effort can be made to diminish the disturbance caused to the animals, the mere approach is more or less the same as the reason for creating zoos. Actually, in my opinion the major difference is that when zoos were founded, a normal person could not travel to the places where the animals live in their natural environment, whereas with affordable air traffic it is possible today.

Ecotourism is defined as "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education". There are two things that make ecotourism, in my opinion, impossible. The first is that the sites can be reached only by, e.g. air or boat transport (and local car transport) which generate fossil fuel pollution. The second is that if a nature site becomes popular, environment will be necessarily affected.

There are, however, a couple of very good things which result from nature tourism (note that I use this word pair instead of ecotourism). The incentive for governments to save the habitats with tourist interests increases. The local people can get the financial benefits from the tourists.

In any case we are not talking about ecotourism, because tourism cannot be ecological, but nature tourism, which can have beneficial effects in addition to the negative environmental effects that tourism necessarily causes.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: air traffic, transport, environmental effects