Gatwick: increasing aircraft movements in face of existential threat unwise

2nd August 2019

Letter to the Editor West Sussex Gazette, 28 July 2019.

Dear Sir,

Recognising the “devastating impact that volatile and extreme weather will have on UK food production, water availability, public health and through flooding and wildfire damage”, MPs endorsed on 1st May a motion for Parliament to declare an ‘Environment and Climate Emergency’ (Parliamentary Business of the Day: Environment and Climate Change 1 May 2019).

Gatwick Airport Ltd’s in-preparation application to convert the existing standby runway “into full-time routine use” to enable it to “incrementally” grow the airport (WSG July 24) must therefore be considered in the context of the Environment and Climate Emergency.

On Thursday 25th July, Britain recorded its hottest ever July day as temperatures rose to 38.1°C, with consequent disruption of air and rail travel (Daily Telegraph July 26).

According to climate scientists “record temperatures across much of the world over the past two weeks could make July the hottest month ever measured on Earth”, that “nine of the 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000” – and that these “record warm streaks are certain to not only continue but to worsen if we continue to burn fossil fuels and warm the planet” (The Guardian 16 July).

Note too that within the Arctic Circle, communities in Alaska and Nunavut, including the world’s most northerly community, Alert, Ellesmere Island, are experiencing a record-breaking heat wave (‘The Canadian Press’ 15 July; Nunatsiaq News 17 July), accelerating there the melting of glaciers, ice caps and sea ice, thereby accelerating rising sea level.

Note also that climate scientists have determined that “scenarios of 21st century global total sea level rise exceeding 2 metres” should be used for planning purposes and that “beyond 2100, uncertainty and projected sea-level rise increase rapidly” (www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1817205116).

Given that Climate Change is an existential threat, increasing the movement of aircraft and passengers flying in and out of Gatwick, with a consequent increase in climate-changing emissions, would seem to be unwise, to say the least.

Yours faithfully,

Dr R F Smith
Trustee CPRE Sussex