Some reasons to be cheerful, as 2011 draws to its close. Firstly, the Great Circle Route over the North Pole has now been cleared for Virgin Atlantic’s new twin-engined Boeing 787 Dreamliners (as reported here in Watts Up With That.) One day I would love to revisit Hawaii, and it would be very nice to fly direct from London Heathrow and enjoy gazing down over the Arctic ice en route.
I have flown over the Arctic before, having returned to London from Tokyo in 1984 with a JAL flight which had a brief stopover in Anchorage, and I have several photos of the distant ice pack taken from my window seat. It would be great to see it again, insulated by the great altitude from the usual nuisances of Arctic travel such as attack from roving polar bears (which I gather are increasing in number.)
Of course, a major spanner in the works would be another volcanic eruption in Iceland, perhaps bigger and nastier than Eyjafjallajokull in 2010. Katla could blow up at any time (it last erupted in 1918, so the next one is probably overdue) and earthquakes in its vicinity have becoming more frequent, perhaps signalling something more violent about to happen.
However, a new technology called AVOID (airborne volcanic object imaging detector) might be of great help, should that happen. It involves mounting infrared cameras on the wings of aircraft, making pilots aware of unhealthy concentrations of volcanic ash in the flight path, so that they can change course and avoid disaster. This was tested this year over Etna, and now easyJet are planning to equip their airliners with these devices next summer. Hopefully other airlines will follow suit, and (fingers crossed) we will not see a repeat of the blanket ban over Europe during the Eyjafjallajokull eruption, which caused so much travel chaos.
Human idiocy is of course far more intractable a problem than mere forces of nature, such as volcanoes. I’m referring here to the sclerotic EU and its carbon tax on international airlines. China is threatening a trade war over it, and on this subject at least, I’m with the Chinese (and the U.S. and other nations who stand to lose by it and might be persuaded to take on the mouldering EU empire.) Of course, EU Climate Commissioner (and committed carbon-cutting careerist) Connie Hedegaard is pleased with the European Court of Justice and its recent blessing and support for the tax. Well, she would be, wouldn’t she. My hope, on the other hand is that economic reality will finally prevail and overwhelm the bureaucrats in a financial dust cloud that will ground – for good – all the wonderful low-carbon plans they have for us. Sooner rather than later, preferably!
Mustn’t turn this into too much of a rant, although the temptation is certainly there. As I wrote earlier, there are reasons to be positive, even though I find you have to go deliberately looking for them sometimes. And it’s the season of goodwill, after all. So…
Here’s to enterprise, innovation, liberty, modernity, wealth, joy and new adventures – cheers!