Heathrow as a Sign of Political Failure and Exercise in Mass Delusion

An article by Mike Small, writing in Bella Caledonia, on the recent vote by MPs in Westminster to expand Heathrow airport, a decision with enormous implications for the government’s commitment to cutting carbon emissions and for the

This isn’t really about Boris, who we know is a liar and a hypocrite and a coward. This is a multi-party failure, a generational disgrace and a deluded fantastical boost to the hyper-capitalism that is destroying our planet. The vote for Heathrow Expansion is a travesty but it is a revealing one about our cultural and institutional failure. The emissions figures are staggering and I will trot them out again shortly, but the lack of innovation, foresight or ambition is possibly more so, and the realisation that as a society – and as individuals – we are just locked into a set of beliefs which will destroy us.

We absolutely have to be ‘open for business’ (whatever that means), we absolutely have to be part of the ‘global economy’ and we have a hard-wired belief in our right to travel anywhere in the world very quickly at an incredibly cheap price. Clinging to these myths in the face of climate crisis represent a crippling force against change. Despite a mountain of evidence we cleave to these stupid outdated ideas. No wonder our politicians vote like this.

All parties failed. The Conservatives, racked with internal division have abandoned their bogus ‘Vote Blue Go Green’ slogans and Husky photo-ops for wrecking the renewables industry, abandoning tidal and pursuing the world-wrecking Heathrow and the preposterous Hinkley with glee. This is now an un-muzzled Conservative Brexit capitalism. Labour are in continued chaos. They talked a good game then 100 Labour MPs ‘defied Jeremy Corbyn’ and backed the Tories. Their leadership is inept to the point of farce. Mary Creagh, Chair of the Environmental Audit Commission wrote: “The economic arguments for Heathrow are unarguable. But the environmental case (climate change, air pollution) are unconscionable. I’ll be abstaining tonight.” The SNP were no better, abstaining when they could have opposed. Having first seen to be captured and lobbied senseless by corporate forces they then fudged and pretended they would make serious opposition, and then just capitulated. The inability for the opposition forces to work together, to be morally coherent or politically strategic is unforgivable.

As Carbon Brief breaks it down: “Aviation’s greenhouse gas emissions could consume around half the carbon budget available to the UK in 2050, even if the sector’s emissions growth is constrained.”         So if you are someone shrieking about your ‘right to fly’ – you will next be shrieking about your right to – insert whatever other unsustainable activity you demand here – next. The emissions from Heathrow are so vast they will impact on other areas or Britain will fail to meet its Paris Agreements targets.

Next week – next week (!) – MPs will see the damning Climate Change Committee report which will warn that aviation and other emissions are growing so fast that homeowners and businesses may have to sacrifice gas cookers, central heating boilers and petrol cars for Britain to meet its climate change targets. Last year UK aviation emissions hit 37m tonnes, close to the pre-recession peak of 37.5m tonnes in 2005. The CCC says this must not be exceeded if the UK is to meet its 80% carbon reduction target. However, a report published on Grayling’s department website last week says aviation emissions will hit 43m tonnes of CO2 by 2030 if Heathrow expands.

Challenged, on radio, on the likelihood that CO2 emissions would rise, Mr Grayling replied: “I think technology, over the next 20 or 30 years, is going to make a big difference in aviation.”
This is the kind of fantastical thinking many people indulge in. It’s an understandable defence mechanism against the idea that anything might be altered in your lifestyle as a consumer slave. But believe in ‘future technologies’ to save us from ourselves is just another aspect to climate denial.
There are multiple ways in which new technologies are fast-emerging that will serve new zero-carbon transport systems, and the eye-watering investment in Heathrow could have been transformative in investing in these. But being able to frantically travel about the world for no particular reason seems like an odd hill to die on.

If the Heathrow expansion programme represents political failure and societal inability to respond to crisis, it is also wrapped up in another fantasy, that of Brexit Britain. Graylings words as he pushed this atrocity through were telling, he said: “This country can no longer afford to wait for extra aviation capacity,” he said. “Parliament has the opportunity to take a bold and decisive step to deliver a strong free-trading global Britain after Brexit. The alternative is unthinkable.”

In a despoiled world of the future, people will look back with anger at this exercise in mass delusion.
Reviewing William Vollman’s ‘No Immediate Danger’ Ted Hamilton writes:
“Despite decades of research and public debate on the effects of fossil fuel use, we’ve hardly even begun to grapple with what it would mean to cut ourselves off. Our writers have been late to this accounting, our politicians can’t be trusted, and industry, ever touting the wisdom of the marketplace, has done all it can to rig the economy of ideas. Instead of engaging in a fair fight over fossil fuel use, we’ve burned up our remaining reservoirs of time in a series of evasive maneuvers, trying to escape the shadow of the impending catastrophe. For future readers, then, the true crime of our age won’t be denial. It will be indifference.”

Protesters stage a ‘lie-in’ in Parliament as MPs vote on Heathrow expansion