Air Travel Pollution Keeps Growing

Need an excuse to stay home for the holidays? Here's how much air-travel is polluting our environment.

How bad is air travel for the environment?

Over 100,000 flights take off every day around the world according to data from Aviation Safety Network, 2017. But for our climate, aviation is synonymous with pollution. One round-trip from New York to San Francisco can release up to 3 tons of carbon dioxide in line with the CCFPD. That’s how much the average person emits for 1 full year of heating. Globally, aircraft CO2 emissions are rising up to 70% faster than predicted by the UN in keeping with the ICCT. The U.S. is responsible for 24% of global aviation CO2 emissions. Today, air traffic contributes as much to global warming as the total annual emissions from Germany and the Netherlands, combined as stated in reports from ICCT and the RAC.

Under the current attitude of the industry, aviation and environment is a contradiction in terms. A lot needs to change. In 2016, 191 countries committed to limiting emissions by optimizing routes, using more efficient planes and cleaner fuel. Biofuel will help greatly to reduce carbon emissions and give more choices for aviation fuel. But some believe this won’t be enough and that there is a need to encourage alternatives. For a journey of about 60 miles, trains pollute 10 to 50 times less, buses 5 to 10 times less according to data from E-RSE, 2017. Carpooling is also eco-friendlier.

When planes are the only option, a non-stop flight pollutes less. In fact, its take-offs and landings that consume the most energy: they generate 25% for flights over 500 miles in agreement with NASA. At a personal level, renouncing to a long-haul flight is still one of the most effective ways to reduce one’s carbon footprint. French economist Thomas Piketty recommends “a progressive tax” on airline tickets. His idea is to use the minority of the world population who uses air travel to help finance the adaptive measures imposed by climate change. In 2018, about 4.3 billion passengers travelled by plane pursuant to the ICAO. There will likely be twice that many in 2035 as reported by the IATA.


11/27/2019 4:41 PM


  • Siddhesh R.
    04/15/2020 12:00

    Need to save nature

  • Nigel B.
    12/20/2019 21:32

    Remember nearly all life on this planet is carbon based ... we would not exist if it wasn't for CO2 ... - It is NOT the enemy ... look elsewhere ...

  • Dallin C.
    12/19/2019 12:59

    So, out of curiosity. Using this New York to San Fran scenario.... say those same 400-500 or so people drove their vehicles instead. Taking into account that would be at least a 3 day drive, so 2 nights in a hotel, restaurant stops, gas stations, etc... would not all those emissions add up to more than the single flight? Just curious

  • Renfebron R.
    12/19/2019 09:43

    Yes we never had major commercial air fleets powered by clean energy its still aircrafts around the globe powered by fossil fuels

  • Eva B.
    12/19/2019 09:18

    Iris Botermans

  • Marianne D.
    12/19/2019 07:43

    SF to NYC = 3k miles. At 53lbs of CO2/ mile and 2,000 lbs/ton... how do they get a 3 ton estimate?

  • Suyash M.
    12/19/2019 05:42

    We can take some steps to reduce our carbon Emissions. Each plane can have some hardy plants in them. This is not enough to capture the CO2 but a small step can make the world better. Hope some day I may see plants in public transports and other vehicles.

  • Josh B.
    12/18/2019 22:17

    Yeah, great idea. Screw all the rest of us while the ‘climate elite’ fly their private jets to political rallies and climate summits whilst lecturing the rest of us

  • Michael W.
    12/18/2019 16:10

    Enough with this earth pollution nonsense.... Brut

  • Ina H.
    12/18/2019 15:44

    Guess it would have been better if nobody had ever invented the wheel.

  • Zachary N.
    12/18/2019 14:55

    UN makes predictions based on their own bad predictions.

  • Carol M.
    12/18/2019 13:49

    Airships would help. Don’t laugh until you think about the tremendous expenditure of fuel used in taking off. Floating upwards, then propelling forward would reduce CO2 quite a lot.

  • Wendy R.
    12/18/2019 11:24

    What tiny Britain does is wiped out by giants like China, America, India, some of whom are increasing use of fossil fuels

  • Trevor T.
    12/18/2019 09:25

    Right. And the fossil fuel you use for electricity generation arrives on your shores magically? It's brought to your shores by humongous oil tankers. Pretty sure those aren't hybrid or nuclear powered.

  • Paulius C.
    12/18/2019 08:48

    Well regarding pollution it is bad, but we need to start somewhere instead of focusing in many different problems I think. Lets make first all cars electric, then maybe planes? 😅👍

  • Steven B.
    12/18/2019 08:40

    No thanks , I love a nice break away 👍👍👍👍😎

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