Opinion: Be a killjoy - or kill our amazing planet

Peter Stanford, a writer and broadcaster and sits on various trustee boards

One of the greatest assets of our sector is its record in changing seemingly entrenched opinions. The groundswell of support for a ban on smoking in public places is just the most recent example of a well-orchestrated campaign, spearheaded by a voluntary organisation, achieving what would have seemed impossible 10 years ago.

But we must remain fearless in tackling sacred cows, so here's another currently unpopular-but-important message. We need to make fewer aeroplane flights, or pay a great deal more for them. The low-cost carrier boom may have made jet travel as routine as, and usually cheaper than, train journeys used to be, but it has come at a terrible environmental cost.

Planes produce more carbon dioxide than any other form of transport, but they are not covered by the Kyoto agreement (which the US refuses to abide by anyway). Although the Government is trying to cut down on car journeys by pumping up fuel tax, there is not a cent of duty to pay on international aviation fuel.

Of course, there are scientists who dispute that planes are doing any harm at all. But a simple report back from American astronauts at the time of the 9/11 tragedy should be enough to dispel any doubts. Planes throughout the US were grounded in the days that followed this act of mass murder - looking back at the earth, the spacemen saw disappear the high, thin cloud caused by the emissions glimpsed in the white trails behind soaring jets.

No one wants to stop people discovering the amazing world we inhabit.

But it is also a world under threat - we need to put its survival above our own bargain-basement fun. For the G8 leaders meeting at Gleneagles this coming weekend, where climate change is on the agenda, any action to damp down demand for aircraft travel will be resisted as unpopular.

But such an approach needs urgently to be sold to electors as part of being a responsible global citizen. That is where the moral authority of charities comes in.

Such a campaign is already up and running, but it is dwarfed by the problem it aims to tackle. Too many individuals and charities - let alone politicians - shy away from putting over the killjoy stay-at-home message. They seem to view the UK getting as hot as the Mediterranean as the only viable way to stop people hopping on polluting planes and make them choose the beaches at Bognor and Bournemouth instead. By then, of course, it will be too late.

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