Green Peace Corps. Org          Community Organic Farming and Development of Sustainable Fuels and Energy

Aviation Emissions

Unfriendly Skies: The Threat of Aviation Industry Emissions

In a world increasingly focused on alternative energy sources, emissions standards, climate change, and other pressing environmental issues, sometimes it can be easy to overlook smaller problems while trying to tackle the big ones. In the struggle against global warming, much of the focus is constrained to automobiles and their emission of greenhouse gases. Transportation, along with the production of electric energy, is responsible for the largest share of harmful emissions into the world’s atmosphere. There are other sources of greenhouse emissions, however, which greatly exacerbate the problem simply because they are not addressed properly. The aviation industry, both passenger and cargo flights, is responsible for 7% of world’s greenhouse gas emissions, a number which is expected to double as increasingly strict standards begin to affect the automobile industry. Despite these facts, the aviation industry is often left unchecked during the application of new emissions standards, and even successfully fended off international efforts to include their emissions in the Kyoto Protocol a decade ago. Aviation emissions have historically been exempted from U.S. and International emissions control plans. To demonstrate its full commitment to the issues of global climate change and emissions control, the U.S. federal government must be willing to apply its newly strengthened standards to minor sources of dangerous emissions like the aviation industry.

Inaction on aviation emissions is especially disconcerting when it is considered that aircraft pollute at a higher per/passenger rate than any other form of transportation, emitting 191 grams of CO2 per passenger, while automobiles emit 143 grams of CO2 per passenger, and trains release 43 grams per passenger. Even more worrying, aviation greenhouse gas emissions have doubled since 1990 and are projected to further grow by 3.5% annually. The latest report of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that aviation is responsible for from 2% to 8% of global warming. Perhaps the most alarming factor of aviation pollution is the scientific evidence suggesting that the effect of aviation emissions are between 2 and 4 times the impact of emissions occurring on the ground, due to their proximity to the planet’s atmosphere at the time of emission release. The import of this information is simple: Aviation pollution presents the planet with another, very real threat and it must be addressed if we are to prevent global climate change.

There has been some encouraging news concerning aviation pollution on the international scene, as the United Kingdom voted in 2008 to include, for the first time, aviation emissions in their country’s historic Climate Change Bill, which sets an ambitious goal of reducing the U.K.’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80%. Improvement on one side of the world, however, does not necessarily bode well for us here in America. The United States government and the Bush administration in particular has rejected and criticized the U.K. bill, arguing that a standardized international approach would be more effective than nationally imposed restrictions. This rejection is consistent with the outgoing administration’s policy of reckless disregard for the environment and refusal to adhere to accepted notions regarding climate change. In 2008, the United States consumed over 13 billion gallons of jet fuel, all of which were burned with minimal federal restriction on the emissions they produced. As we continue to mount a global defense against climate change and its consequences, we cannot afford to ignore seemingly minor threats like aviation emissions. We must devote ourselves to the totality of the effort if we are to succeed in changing the destructive habits of our species.

Sources: All statistics provided by the U.S. government’s Guide to Foreign Trade Statistics and the Energy Information Administration, and the Air transport Association.





Written By: Jonathan Zaun

Initiated & edited by Thomas Thirion

On Behalf Of: Green Peace Corps

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