Now that air travel has resumed in Europe, says Greg Goldin in the Los Angeles Times, "perhaps we might pause to say thanks to the volcano that blew its stack in Iceland." When Eyjafjallajokull erupted on April 14, it sent ash clouds into the airways, and forced the cancellation of about 11,000 flights a day. That temporarily reduced Europe's carbon footprint — not enough to make a difference, mind you, but enough to call attention to the fact that our growing dependence on air travel will, if unchecked, undo the progress we're making elsewhere in the fight against global warming:
"The fact is, despite the falloff in passengers after 9/11, airplanes are the fastest-growing source of man-made greenhouse gases, according to a 2006 report by the European Federation for Transport and Environment....
The most efficient way to slash these carbon emissions is to build high-speed electric trains, because they emit anywhere between a tenth and a quarter of aircraft greenhouse gases. We all know how feeble passenger trains are in the United States, and the climate change bill now wallowing in the Senate will do little to lay bullet train tracks, let alone mandate airlines to dramatically conserve.
So perhaps our hope for the near term should be that Katla, one of Iceland's 'Angry Sisters,' will blow its restless top. If that happens, perhaps airports as far away as Los Angeles will have leader boards flashing 'Delayed' for every flight."