Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Airline Indusrty advertisements

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Supporting information for a Private Members Bill
For enforcement of Environmental Warnings on Airline adverts and tickets.

Introduction: Relationship between Air Travel and Global Warming

Aircraft emissions are considered to be the fastest growing source of CO2 emissions. Current projections indicate that aircraft emissions will account for 60% of the UK global warming impact by 2050. [1]

The government’s main proposal at present to mitigate the impact of global warming from aviation is to incorporate the aviation industry into the European Trading Scheme. However, the House of Commons Environmental Committee has concluded that this is not a tenable solution as the cuts that other industries would have to make to offset the aviation industry would violate the whole concept of the ETS strategy.

The IPCC report published in February 2007[2] states that “Global atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have increased markedly as a result of human activities since 1750 and now far exceed pre-industrial values determined from ice cores spanning many thousands of years. The global increases in carbon dioxide concentration are due primarily to fossil fuel use.”

The IPCC report goes on to say that “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal” and points out that eleven of the last twelve years (1995 -2006) rank among the 12 warmest years in the instrumental record of global surface temperatures. The report goes on to warn of global temperature increases of up to 4 deg C. This is as large a temperature difference between today and the last ice age. Furthermore, a global temperature increase of 4 deg C will leave most of the world uninhabitable and lead to the collapse of civilisation.

In addition to the global warming impact of CO2 emissions from aircraft, other pollutants such as NOx are acknowledged to have serious radiative forcing impacts on the environment. Also, NOx formation becomes an increasing problem with high pressure combustion chambers, which are necessary to improve fuel efficiency. The IPCC report on Aviation and the Global climate[3] states that “Ultra-low NOx technology concepts now being developed may not be suitable for future high pressure ratio subsonic engine designs, so achieving fleet NOx emission levels assumed in the DTI and EDF models may be very difficult.”

The government’s own white paper on aviation[4] recognises that “These 'radiative forcing' impacts (from aviation) were estimated by the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1999 to be 2-4 times greater than that from carbon dioxide alone”

The only constraint to growth that the aviation industry generally has to overcome is airport capacity. In comparison to railways and roads which are difficult and expensive to develop further once they have reached capacity, airports can be relatively easily developed. Despite these lower constraints to growth the airline industry enjoys unparalleled government protection in terms of tax free fuel. Aviation fuel currently retails at approximately 25p per litre against 97p per litre for road diesel.

Comparison between the Aviation and Tobacco Industries

The first cigarette advertisements unashamedly pushed reduced risk, health reassurance or even health "benefits" of smoking a specific product.

In 1942, the July issue of Reader's Digest published an article titled "Cigarette Advertising Fact and Fiction," that claimed that all cigarettes, regardless of brand, were essentially the same, and equally deadly. In 1957, Reader's Digest published an article that linked smoking with lung cancer. This is when Philip Morris saw its chance to reintroduce Marlboro and market it as the "safer" filtered brand. Consumers began feeling mislead by the established brands and dropped their old allegiances. Unable to break completely away from smoking, due to what was later recognized as nicotine addiction; many smokers were willing to try new cigarette brands.

When the tobacco advertising was first challenged, the industry repeatedly asserted that banning advertising would be an infringement of "commercial free speech", but never answered the criticism that much of its advertising was misleading.

By 1992, Financial World ranked Marlboro the world's No. 1 most valuable brand, with a market worth of $32 billion. That same year, dying of lung cancer, "Marlboro Man" Wayne McLaren appeared at PM's annual shareholders meeting in Richmond, VA, and asked the company to voluntarily limit its advertising. Chairman Michael Miles responded, "We're certainly sorry to hear about your medical problem. Without knowing your medical history, I don't think I can comment any further."

The most comprehensive study of the link between advertising and tobacco consumption was published in 1993 by Chief Economic Adviser to the Department of Health, Dr. Clive Smee. After reviewing 212 ‘time series’ correlating advertising spend and total tobacco consumption, Smee concluded "The balance of evidence thus supports the conclusion that advertising does have a positive effect on consumption." Smee also examined in detail the effects of tobacco advertising bans in four countries and found that banning advertising resulted in reductions in consumption of 4%-9% in the countries surveyed. He concluded: "In each case the banning of advertising was followed by a fall in smoking on a scale which cannot be reasonably attributed to other factors."

With the recognition of the effects of passive smoking that was initially highlighted by the death of the celebrity Roy Castle from lung cancer, legislation has now been enacted to ban smoking in public places and to place further bans on cigarette advertising.

It took over 50 year from the initial Readers Digest reports being published to this legislation being enacted.

In terms of comparison, the airline and travel industry shares unequivocal parallels with the tobacco industry.

The airline industry relies heavily on the idea of publicising the benefits and pleasures of flying in the same way that a cigarette was portrayed in 1920s and 1930s. No advert makes any recognition of the damage to the environment that will be done and all adverts aim to show air travel as a risk free exercise.

In the same way that that Marlboro used adverts in the 1960s to claim their products were safe, we have today airlines such as Easy Jet and Ryan Air taking out adverts in the national press to claim that the impact of air travel on global warming is minimal when flying with them. It reality it may only be marginally less environmentally damaging than travelling with another airline.

Marlboro’s reliance on the addictive properties of cigarettes to ensure that they gained customers from other manufactures when they bought out their “safe filter” brand is analogous to certain airlines claiming that flying with them is environmentally benign. As with the cigarette manufactures, it relies on the fact that people who are in the habit of travelling by plane do not want to change.

In common with the mistruths that were peddled by the tobacco industry, mistruths and distortions that the airline industry have peddled follow, (taken from the EasyJet web site)
“Because we attract more passengers per aircraft, our traditional rivals flying the same route with the same type of plane use 27% more fuel than easyJet.” EasyJet give no clear evidence what the basis for the 27% is and where this information actually comes from.

“Focusing on short haul travel: easyJet only flies to short haul destinations.” EastJet only flies short haul because of its business model. They have not made an environmentally based decision to avoid long haul.

These adverts overlook the fact the EasyJet is supporting lobbying for airport expansion at its main UK airports which will results in a dramatic increase in total CO2 emissions.

A highly significant comparison with the tobacco industry is the parallel with passive smoking. The people who fly will not be the immediate victims of the environmental damage from flying. The immediate victims will be those people in low lying countries or drought prone countries. Eventually, we will all be victims, including those people who have taken responsibility for the environment and decided not to fly or to minimise their flying to the lowest levels possible.

The most critical warning from the tobacco industry is the death of the executive from lung cancer who introduced the concept of the Marlboro man. It highlights the risk of doing nothing. The environmental damage from global warming will prove to be very much more deadly than the tobacco industry. Furthermore, the conclusions of the IPCC report clearly spell out that we do not have the luxury of a 50 year debate before restrictive advertising legislation is imposed on environmentally damaging activities.


In the same way that the tobacco industry was forced to carry government health warnings, the airline industry should be forced to carry government environmental warnings.

The warnings could be selected from a list, such as “Flying seriously damages the environment,” or “Flying causes significant global warming impacts,” and policed in exactly the same way as with the tobacco industry.

The warning would apply to all adverts in the press of a certain size, to all web adverts and television adverts. The warnings would be required to form a certain percentage of the total area of the advert or a certain percentage of the time that an advert is aired.

[1] House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, Reducing Carbon Emissions from Transport, Ninth Report of Session 2005–06, Volume 1, reference HC 981
[2] IPCC, Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis
[3]Aviation and the Global Atmosphere,
[4] The Future of Air Transport Progress Report, December 2006