WARNING: Flying kills

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Adverts for flights should carry cigarette-style warnings, centre-left think-tank the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has advised.

Under IPPR's proposals, any advert for a flight or holiday involving flying would contain an estimate of the per person emissions incurred, a comparison with the emissions caused by making the same journey by rail or coach, and a large warning: 'Flying Causes Climate Change'.

Simon Retallack, Head of Climate Change at the Institute, said that it is just as clear that aviation causes climate change as that smoking cigarettes causes early death:
'We know that smokers notice health warnings on cigarettes, and we have to tackle our addiction to flying in the same way. But if we are to change people's behaviour, warnings must be accompanied by offering people alternatives to short-haul flights and by steps to make the cost of flying better reflect its impact on the environment,' he said.

The report's authors recommend that taxation on aviation be increased, but that any such raise should be matched by improvements in the rail transport system, including effective links with continental rail networks. The research also calls for new cars to carry emissions labels whilst in the showroom.

Controversially, the report recommends that carbon offsetting - paying a fee for an 'environmentally friendly' project to 'off-set' any pollution - be made standard when booking all flights, rather than an optional extra. Recently, research has cast doubt on the transparency and effectiveness of carbon offsetting programmes.

This article first appeared in the Ecologist April 2007