Allow me to start with the premise that climate change is real and at least partially caused by people. If that is the case, why then won't the public accept climate change regulation. That's an easy one...because it benefits everyone but makes me worse off. Reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are a classic public goods problem. The costs accrue to me but the benefits accrue to everyone. Here's an example from the Guardian:
...if we want to stop the planet from cooking, we will simply have to stop travelling at the kind of speeds that planes permit.
This is now broadly understood by almost everyone I meet. But it has had no impact whatever on their behaviour. When I challenge my friends about their planned weekend in Rome or their holiday in Florida, they respond with a strange, distant smile and avert their eyes. They just want to enjoy themselves. Who am I to spoil their fun? The moral dissonance is deafening.
In other words, the social benefits of reducing airline travel may very well exceed the social costs, but the individual costs far exceed the individual benefits. What incentive does a wealthy businessman have to incur $10,000 in losses from restricted air travel even if 20,000 people in Bangladesh receive $1 in benefit each from reduced temperatures?
Despite the claims made for the democratising effects of cheap travel, 75% of those who use budget airlines are in social classes A, B and C. People with second homes abroad average six return flights a year, while people in classes D and E hardly fly; they can't afford the holidays, so are responsible for just 6% of flights. Most of the growth [in British airport capacity], the government envisages, will take place among the wealthiest 10%. But the people who are being hit first and will be hit hardest by climate change are among the poorest on earth. Already the droughts in Ethiopia, putting millions at risk of starvation, are being linked to the warming of the Indian Ocean. Some 92 million Bangladeshis could be driven out of their homes this century in order that we can still go shopping in New York.
Flying kills. We all know it, and we all do it. And we won't stop doing it until the government reverses its policy and starts closing the runways.
So next time you go to buy an airline ticket, think of the costs you are imposing on others. Then see if it changes your decision to buy the ticket. My guess is it won't and there is no reason to believe it should. We're all rational after all.