Air travel climate impact set to increase

Air travel is projected to grow by about five per cent annually until 2015, burning three per cent more fuel per year in that period, according to a new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Aircraft emissions, and their impacts, will be far greater in 2050 unless new technologies and operational modes are developed, says the special report on the effect of aviation on the global atmosphere entitled “Aviation and the Global Atmosphere”, released today by the IPCC.

Fuel consumption by civil aviation is expected to reach 300 million tonnes in 2015 and 450 million tonnes in 2050, compared to 130 million tonnes in 1992, with corresponding high emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and water vapour as well as nitrogen oxides and sulphur oxides.

The report has been developed over the last two years by a group of more than 100 scientists from around the world and was endorsed during a three-day IPCC meeting in San Jose, Costa Rica in mid-April 1999. It represents the results of unprecedented collaboration between the IPCC and the Scientific Assessment Panel of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, and provides a detailed assessment of the impact of aircraft engine emissions on climate and atmospheric ozone.

The aviation industry has undergone rapid growth and projections suggest that the trend is likely to continue. It is, therefore, highly relevant to consider current and possible future effects of aircraft on the atmosphere. The report considers all the gases and particles emitted by aircraft into the atmosphere and the role which they play in climate change, and modification of the ozone layer. The report also considers how potential changes in aircraft technology, air transport operations and the institutional, regulatory and economic framework might affect emissions in the future. It describes the state of scientific knowledge together with associated uncertainties.

A unique aspect of this report is the integral involvement of technical experts from the aviation industry, including airlines and airframe engine manufacturers, alongside atmospheric scientists. IPCC says this involvement has been critical in producing what it believes is the most comprehensive assessment available of the effects of aviation on the global atmosphere.

Click on the link below for a summary of the report in Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie