The Responsibility of the Airline Industry for Some Degree of Global Warming and Climate Change Is Now Broadly Acknowledged, Although It Remains a Highly Contested Field of Debate. Bearing in Mind Air Transport’s

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“Our world faces a true planetary emergency,” said former US Vice-President Al Gore, about global warming (BBC News b, 2007). Global warming and climate change have become very important topics of discussion, as they are some of the most serious challenges facing the world today. Global warming refers to the gradual increase in the temperatures of water and air on the earths’ surface (Global a, 2009). The main contributor to global warming is carbon dioxide emissions. Airplanes account for 3.5 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions in the earths’ upper atmosphere (Global b, 2009). They are particularly harmful to the environment as they release large amounts of carbon dioxide at high altitudes (BBC News, 2005). It is approximated that for every 4000 miles travelled by an aircraft, 1 tonne of carbon dioxide is emitted (Eco Travelling, n.d). False cirrus clouds that are produced by the engines of the aircraft create water vapour, which crystallize into ice in the upper atmosphere, thus trapping the heat of the earth, in essence doubling the contribution of airplanes to global warming (Mulchandani, 2006). Experts have forecasted that by 2020 air travel will be the sole largest contributor to global warming (Mulchandani, 2006). International tourism has increased rapidly over the past decade and is expected to continue to grow at unprecedented levels (Reisinger, 2009). The World Bank (2007) defines tourism as, “the activities of people travelling to and staying places outside their usual environment for no more than one year for leisure, business, and other purposes not related to an activity remunerated from within the place visited.” Tourism relies heavily on the aviation industry. It accounts for more than 60 percent of air travel (United Nations Environment Program, 2001). For most tourists, the preferred mode of travel is by air. The key reason for this being that the aviation industry offers a faster, efficient, and often cheaper, means of transport as compared to other methods of travel (Article Base, 2010). The recent eruption of Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland led to the closure of many airports across Northern Europe, including Heathrow and Gatwick airports in England. Due to this, thousands of British tourists were stranded at various tourist destinations across the globe, as a vast majority were unable to find alternative modes of transport to return to Britain (Sherwell and Sawer, 2010). This is evidence of the substantial importance of the aviation industry to tourism. There are more than 2000 airline operators controlling over 23,000 airplanes globally (Global Airline Industry Program, n.d). The popularity of air travel has grown since 1950 at an average annual rate of 9 percent, and is expected to grow significantly over the next few years (May & Hill, n.d). The United Nations World Tourism Organization reported that they felt positive that the world was well on its way to reaching the UNWTO’s forecasted target of 1.6 billion international arrivals in 2020 (Coles & Michael, 2008). The aviation industry has become the target of many debates on global warming and climate change. Although the industry as a whole is aware of their carbon footprint and contribution to global warming, Helene Gagnon (n.d) of Bombardier Aerospace, believes that they may be targeted unfairly as they, “Operate off-the-ground” therefore causing them to be “highly visible and an easy target.” The Chief executive officer of British Airways was outraged at the suggestion that air travel was a, “selfish, antisocial activity that single-handedly threatens planetary catastrophe.” (The Guardian, 2006). Low-cost airlines carrying out short-haul flights have been at the forefront of the revolution of increased air travel (Duffy, 2002). Cheaper airfares attract large numbers of tourists, enabling them to take weekend breaks at lower costs (Duffy, 2008). Although this may act as an advantage to tourists, it...
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