Air travel and (help the) climate change:
Would you like to help the climate? Let’s learn something new about climate and flying.
Compared to some other industries, aviation is a relatively small industry. However, aviation has a disproportionately large impact on the climate system. Did you know:
- Aviation is responsible for about 9% of the impact on climate change.
- Since 1990, CO2 emissions from international aviation have increased 83%.
- Cheap fares are not cheap they are actually expensive in terms of climate change.
Some more reading for you:
What do you know about air travel and climate?
If we compared between driving, taking the train, traveling by bus and air travel, air travel has a greater climate impact per passenger kilometer, even over longer distances. Air travel is also the mode of freight transport that produces the most emissions.
While burning jet fuel, the carbon (in fuel when released) and bonds with oxygen in the air to form carbon dioxide (CO2). Burning jet fuel also releases water vapor, soot, sulfate and nitrous oxides. I bet you didn’t know about a special characteristic of airplane emissions? Plane emissions are produced while cruising at high altitudes.
Scientific studies have shown that these high-altitude emissions have a more harmful climate impact because they trigger a series of chemical reactions and atmospheric effects that have a net warming effect. The climate impact of aircraft is two to four times greater than the effect of their carbon dioxide emissions alone.
Now you know that every traveler can help the climate?
Next, let me tell you about what are “contrails” and their impact on climate change:
Contrails are the long plumes of exhaust that you can see in the sky behind airplanes. They consist primarily of water droplets and ice, and contrails are formed when water vapor released from burning jet fuel condenses at higher altitudes. Contrails may stay in the sky for many hours and can spread 2 kilometers wide before disappearing. The net effect of these contrails is to trap heat that would otherwise escape from the earth. Which contributes to global warming. Studies have shown that night flights have the strongest warming impact, because during the daytime contrails actually reflect some sunlight away from the earth.
What are we doing to decrease air travels impact on climate change:
Do you know what’s happening around the globe to fight against emission changes due to air travel? NOTHING (unfortunately) is my answer. Countries with national emissions targets under the Kyoto Protocol are only required to account for emissions from domestic flights. Emissions from an international flight are not counted. And very little has been done to actually limit these emissions. To date, the only formal plan to control and cut international aviation emissions is being developed with the European Union (EU).
In Conclusion to help the climate
How can you help the climate while traveling is my follow up question? I will follow up with you on the answer to this question in our next post. Until then be safe and enjoy your trips and think about how to help the climate?