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


  • Greg S.
    12/24/2019 19:39

    Oy Vey! Nothing is equal to the pollution created by Asia! Look it up! For every coal plant we shut down in the US, China builds 5 more! 90% of the Pacific Garbage Patch is from Asia! Creating a ban on plastic straws does nothing. ALL of our efforts need to be focused on the biggest polluters, and the US is quite low on the list compared to China and all of Asia. Lead by example?....not working! Air travel? Find an alternative! An alternative for Gasoline, Propane, Natural gas, electricity that doesn't rely on sunshine or wind. Then, and only then will we be able to reduce pollution at a level that will satisfy the climate alarmists. What's going to happen to the climate over the next 50-75 years is not changeable! That's scientific fact, so quit worrying about the little stuff and find an alternative to the big stuff!

  • Jay C.
    12/22/2019 15:28


  • Jim M.
    12/22/2019 03:27

    Why is it that Al Gore flys in private planes........ most polluting way of travel. He could live in a much smaller house and do less polluting........ yes he may have a very "green" house but it is still giving off emissions......... do the same in a smaller home & there would be less green. Can name other "polluters" er I mean people that are telling me what I have to do to pollute less but they can pollute with their life style........

  • Elroy D.
    12/21/2019 11:16

    They don't need to add any additional taxes to an airline ticket, the outrageous ticket fees that are out now, take some of that to help with your problem. The amount of travelers should suffice.

  • Gary A.
    12/21/2019 07:39

    it's winter but i feel warmed here in Alaska..Global Warming is really happening.

  • Jason S.
    12/18/2019 21:38

    So what about people who live on small pacific islands how do our family members come visit us or how do we visit them??

  • Stephen B.
    12/18/2019 02:22

    So wouldn't my personal footprint be higher traveling 400 miles by a car than the same 400 miles shared by 200 people on a plane traveling the same distance? I know planes are thirsty. But look at the plane that's full of travelers also.

  • Piotr S.
    12/16/2019 21:56

    Global worming. B.S

  • Jesse P.
    12/16/2019 12:53

    Breathing pollutes the environment, therefore, we should stop breathing.

  • Dav V.
    12/14/2019 19:34

    plant a fn tree and shut up......co2 what do u think plants breath...and they exhale pure clean oxegen...the amazon forest is being wiped out.......want to help the planet .....stop deforestation and plant more trees and plants....

  • Glenn P.
    12/11/2019 13:00

    Plug the volcanoes

  • Jim M.
    12/11/2019 03:32

    There was an article years ago talking about how bad it would be if the combustion engine, cars, had not been invented. Can you imagine the horse droppings in New York & other cities????? Why is it that Al Gore uses a private plane? The most "ungreen" means of transportation. there are several big name "environmentalists" the follow the same principal...... "You are not to fly.... but I can." Really makes me wonder how serious they are.........

  • Lynda O.
    12/10/2019 19:25

    So serious, yet no easy answers.

  • Vanessa M.
    12/09/2019 23:08

    So you’d rather we all take cars?

  • Edgardo S.
    12/09/2019 16:54


  • Joey B.
    12/08/2019 22:05

    Stop burning oil and gas! Typhoon will be stronger and stronger soon!!!!!😂

  • Walt M.
    12/07/2019 19:58

    Carbon Dioxide is what trees (yes trees, anybody here a fan of trees?) need for food. Its the same thing animals exhale. CO2 is not a threat.

  • Walt M.
    12/07/2019 19:56

    Why don't we tax Americans and hope the Chinese will quit polluting.

  • Ted C.
    12/07/2019 15:55

    So how much fuel was burned to get the folks to the climate change get together in Europe?

  • Pete S.
    12/07/2019 15:48

    I can look out my airplane window and see the trees below all cheering.