AIR TRAVEL MAY BE YOUR BIGGEST CARBON SIN
Apr 29, 2019 —
The aviation industry’s very rapid rate of growth is forecasted, by 2050, to become one of the single biggest contributors to global climate change…
From Friends of the Earth:
AVIATION AND GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE
People living near airports have long suffered from aircraft noise, traffic congestion and air pollution. Indeed, communities around airports have been concerned about these issues for years. However new evidence shows that air travel is contributing towards a far greater threat - CLIMATE CHANGE.
AIR TRAVEL GROWTH AND CO2 EMISSIONS
Air travel is the world’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, which cause climate change. Globally the world’s 16,000 commercial jet aircraft generate more than 600 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2), the world’s major greenhouse gas, per year. Indeed, aviation generates nearly as much CO2 annually as that from all human activities in Africa.
The huge increase in aircraft pollution is largely due to the rapid growth in air traffic which has been expanding at nearly two and half times average economic growth rates since 1960. It is expected the number of people flying will virtually double over the next 15 years. This means increasing airport capacity, more flights, more pollution and increasingly crowded airspace.
IMPACTS OF AIR TRAVEL ON THE ATMOSPHERE
In 1999 the world’s top climate scientists, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC), published a detailed study of the impact of aircraft pollution on our atmosphere - Aviation and the Global Atmosphere (see website http://www.ipcc.ch/index.htm
The report’s findings support the following:
- Aircraft release more than 600 million tonnes of the world’s major greenhouse gas CO2 into the atmosphere each year.
- Aircraft cause about 3.5% of global warming from all human activities.
- Aircraft greenhouse emissions will continue to rise and could contribute up to 15% of global warming from all human activities within 50 years.
- Nitrogen oxides(NOx) and water vapour have a more significant effect on the climate when emitted at altitude than at ground level. Hence any strategy to reduce aircraft emissions will need to consider other greenhouse gases and not just CO2 alone.
- Aircraft vapour trails or contrails, often visible from the ground, can lead to the formation of cirrus clouds. Both contrails and cirrus clouds warm the earth’s surface magnifying the global warming effect of aviation.
- The impacts on the global atmosphere from air travel will be concentrated over Europe and the USA where 70-80% of all flights occur. Hence the regional climatic impacts of aircraft emissions over these areas are likely to be greater than predicted by the IPCC report (which used global averages).
Most significantly the climate scientists concluded that improvements in aircraft and engine technology and in air traffic management will not offset the projected growth in aircraft emissions. That is, we need to slow the growth in air travel if we want to reduce the growth in aircraft greenhouse gas emissions.
The Illusion of Green Flying by Magdalena Heuwieser
The Plane Truth: Aviation and the Environment by Professor John Whitelegg and Nick Williams
Fly Now, Grieve Later: How to Reduce the Impact of Air Travel on Climate Change by Brendon Sewill
Up in the Air: How Airplane Carbon Pollution Jeopardizes Global Climate Goals by the Center for Biological Diversity, Vera Pardee
Your Biggest Carbon Sin May Be Air Travel by Elisabeth Rosenthal
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