Former chief government scientist brands Heathrow third runway ‘White Elephant’ ahead of climate camp

In an exclusive interview with the Ecologist Film Unit (EFU) Professor Sir David King has said that government plans to expand British airport capacity are both short-sighted and economically unsound. Sir David, until recently the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, said that the Government’s own policy of drastically reducing carbon emissions made nonsense of current proposals to expand airport capacity:

“I’m looking at this from a marketing point of view – if we’re moving towards decarbonising our economy this must mean that alternative means of transport, land transport, will be favoured over air transport,” he said.

“This must mean that by pricing carbon dioxide, by putting fuel tax on aviation fuel as well (which is the British government position) that we will drive people toward land-based travel rather than air, and investments in new runways will turn out to be white elephants,” he added.

Sir David, who famously described climate change as “a far greater threat even than global terrorism”, made his remarks to the Ecologist Film Unit while being interviewed in June 2008 for the film Melting Point – The New Frontline In Environmental Activism about the extreme reaction of Government and big business to the new generation of climate change activists. His comments come less than two weeks before this year’s Climate Camp at Kingsnorth power station where protesters will gather to express their deep concern over rising greenhouse gas emissions.

Earlier this month John Hutton, the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, told an audience at Farnborough air show that the government would press ahead with a third runway at Heathrow despite the objections of environmentalists.

But Sir David’s comments reinforce previous allegations – including those made by opposition politicians and former BA Chief Executive Bob Ayling – that the controversial plans are economically flawed as well as environmentally dangerous.

According to Ecologist editor Pat Thomas: “Sir David’s damning indictment of the UK government’s airport expansion plans is timely and most welcome. There are an increasingly large group of concerned people, all across the country and from all walks of life, who want their views to be heard on the subject of climate change. As our extraordinary film shows, the Climate Camp protesters who will be descending on Kingsnorth power station next month, far from being a threat to our present or future security, are shouting in one voice about the need for a stable climate and a sustainable, secure future for the UK. It’s good to hear Sir David adding his voice to the rising chorus of dissent.”

About the film

Melting Point – The New Frontline In Environmental Activism (10 mins) details the espionage, news manipulation, legal threats and even violence that have become the knee-jerk response of Government and big business to the increasing and vocal concerns of environmental protesters in the UK.

Ahead of next month’s Climate Camp at Kingsnorth power station, this exclusive and powerful film exposes the extraordinary tactics being used to reframe concerned citizens engaging in their right to protest, as dangerous terrorists. It can be viewed, along with other EFU productions, online at and will distributed for broadcast externally.

**The full filmed version of Sir David King’s interview, in which he also describes carbon capture and storage – the Government ‘clean coal’ solution – as an “unproven technology” and criticises the rampant consumerism and dangerously limited thinking about renewable energy that is keeping the UK from becoming a “decarbonised economy”, is also available on request.

About the Ecologist Film Unit

The Ecologist Film Unit (EFU), is a collaboration between the Ecologist magazine and the investigative agency Ecostorm. It makes hard-hitting, topical documentaries which are streamed on the internet, and shown on TV and at film festivals and events.