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.