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Third runway lobby ignoring serious environmental impact of growth

29 March 2012 – SCMP

Exco’s approval of a third runway at Chek Lap Kok coincided with the release of a scientific paper showing increases in global atmospheric temperatures since 1998 to have been much higher than projected once Arctic measurements are included.

This reflects a more rapid, unprecedented and ongoing increase in average global temperatures than at any time in the past 20 million years. The only plausible explanatory model we have for this increase is human economic activity. In the report (“Fuel prices may burn airline earnings, says Iata”, March 21) rising aviation fuel costs are mentioned as problematic in a declining market where they cannot be passed on to travellers.

The cost of the third runway will be passed on to travellers, but in a declining market rising costs will further drive down demand. The illusion of continuous growth blinds many to this problem. Moreover, a third runway will do nothing to relieve crowding in the airspace over the Pearl River estuary. A third runway to “maintain competitiveness” reflects a mistaken naivety of thought we can no longer afford.

Many readers may have missed the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s latest dire warnings of climate-related harm (“Future living standards ‘may already be doomed”’, March 17). Instead the broken record of “economic and population growth” will be constantly replayed by the baby-boomer generation and a compliant media, while the young will be left to deal with the looming ecological consequences.

Though the evidence for anthropogenic climate change is stronger than that for Iranian nuclear weapons, we will continue to focus on the latter, while making excuses not to consider the former.

After all, nothing can hamper economic growth – can it?

Richard Fielding, deputy director (advocacy), school of public health, University of Hong Kong

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