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Palmed off


I take exception to Jackie Whitelaw's flippant approach to the problem of global warming (NCE last week).

It is no more possible for civil engineers to build a way out of the impending crisis than it is to borrow one's way out of debt and there is no such thing as sustainable construction or development. Paying more taxes is a political solution, like increasing recycling, as neither is capable of achieving an environmental benet.

Both the wealth to pay the taxes and the energy required for recycling derive from exploiting the environment and cause more harm than good.

Are engineers not aware of such wider implications of the Second Law of Thermodynamics? It's like the drive to displace fossil fuels with palm oil, where the palm oil plantations are creating vastly more CO 2 than they prevent. And what of the construction projects? Building more airport capacity nowadays is like playing Russian roulette with a fully loaded automatic pistol, as there's no uncertainty about the result.

It may be a Stern challenge, but it's Hobson's choice because it's not simply the rate of carbon emission that matters. It's the long-lived and accumulating CO 2 equivalent in the atmosphere that is adding to the problem of global warming, regardless of any uncontrollable causes. The sooner that rate is cut, the longer the world will have to acclimatise to the change. A good starting point would be to cease airport expansion now, in order to curtail any increase in air travel.

Paul Kirkley (M) 60 Henley St, Oxford OX4 1ES

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