There is a pervasive fear amongst noise campaigners that they are losing out to climate activists. Of course there are areas where their interests coincide – less car traffic on the roads; a move to rail for short distance flights – but there seems to be an increasing number of areas where there is divergence.
It probably started with wind farms. In their enthusiasm to back renewable energy many, almost certainly a majority, of climate campaigners ignored or dismissed the increasingly desperate calls from many residents of the very real noise problems they could and were causing.
It has emerged again with heat pumps. Another blog on this site spells out the problem in detail. In essence, the UK Government has said that fossil fuel heating systems – oil and gas boilers – will be outlawed in new homes from 2025. Their main replacement is likely to be heat pumps. These are like air conditioners which pump out heat. And most of them are situated outside. There are significant noise problems, particularly with those which are on walls (there's less of a concern when the coil is in the ground), especially around tonal and low-frequency noise. And people on lowest incomes living in multi-occupancy properties and flats are likely to be worst hit. There is an awful sense of the Government bending over backwards to satisfy climate concerns at the expense of the least well-off in society.
There are also conflicts coming to the fore in aviation. The big one is around the question of research and development into new aircraft. Should noise or climate be prioritized? Ideally, the choice should not have to be made but, in reality, it might need to be. The way forward may be to put a lot of resources into the development of sustainable fuels but, beyond that, the priority should be noise.
Already there is simmering disagreement over whether any future tax on aviation should be based on the number of flights a person takes or the distance travelled. A compromise might be achievable but noise and climate campaigners want very different things: for communities under flight paths the number of planes using the airport is all-important; for them, the distance travelled – and therefore the carbon footprint – is a secondary issue.
Currently, because the climate movement has made such great strides, a lot of community airport campaigners are willing to jump on the bandwagon in the belief that their best hope of getting fewer flights is through governments introducing climate legislation. It is a high risk strategy because governments may choose to reduce emissions at the expense of noise.
There is a wider gulf between noise campaigners and a growing number of climate activists. The anti-capitalist slogan ‘climate change not system change’ of some climate activists leaves most noise campaigners cold. They buy into capitalism. Indeed, some of them are ‘captains of industry’.
Some noise sufferers are climate sceptics. Most, like the general population as a whole, want something done about it but not at the expense of everything else. Only a few really buy into the radical message of the climate outriders. Though some might feel it suits them tactically to go along with it.
How capable many of the ardent climate campaigners are of compromise; of accepting less climate-friendly solutions in order to cut noise. Some certainly are but, unless the climate movement as a whole modifies some of its stances, such as on wind farms, the most it can expect from noise campaigners is tactical alliances on certain issues. On other issues there will be increasing and possibly outright opposition.
Read our Case for a Noise Audit of all energy sources: http://www.ukna.org.uk/case-notes--reports.html