Britain halts London airport expansion to curb carbon emissions: a good idea?

British Prime Minister David Cameron is halting planned runway expansions at London airports in order to discourage "binge flying" and curb carbon emissions.

Building new runways at three airports near London would make it hard to meet Britain's target to reduce greenhouse gases, the government argues. It would also increase noise and air pollution. Besides, like new highways, more runways will only encourage more frequent use, such as jetting off to Spain and Prague for the weekend.

The business community is shocked. Heathrow, which was to have received a third runway, is notoriously congested. It's the only airport of its size in the world to have just two runways. Canceling the plans will mean more delays, and will impede tourism and economic growth. The government's decision bucks airport expansion trends in the US, Asia, and Europe.

Would it be better to improve airplane fuel efficiency instead of bottling up Britain, which is an island? Might there not be other targets for reductions, such as power plants?

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On the other hand, in the US, Californians voted to build a bullet train network in part to relieve stress on airports. Maybe Britain needs another "chunnel" instead of more runways. Indeed, Britain's transport minister said high-speed rail is a better alternative to more planes, whose carbon emissions are growing faster than those from almost any other source. Still, they only account for 2 to 3 percent of total global emissions.

Should Britain halt airport expansion to curb greenhouse gases? What about other developed countries?

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