Researchers say promises of new technologies hide true impacts of jet travel
Abetted by the media and politicians, the aviation industry may be engaging in a bit of deceptive greenwashing when it comes to the issue of sustainable air travel, according to a team of university researchers from three countries.
The new study published in the journal Transportation Research Part D says the way new technologies have been hyped as solutions to addressing the environmental impacts of air travel has perpetuated a culture of non-accountability for increased emissions.
By 2050, aviation will account for 19 percent of the total energy use by the transportation sector, compared to just 11 percent in 2006, said Dr. Scott Cohen, of the University of Surrey.
For the medium-term, the aviation industry has agreed to move toward an overall cap on emissions. In an early February meeting, technical experts with the International Civil Aviation Organization agreed on the proposed standard this week; the organization is expected to adopt the standard at an annual meeting this spring. The industry will also start to consider an overall cap on emissions at 2020 levels. The ICAO could take a vote on such a cap, as well as a carbon-trading program, later this year.
The step is important because if international aviation were a country, it would be a top ten emitter of CO2 on par with Germany or the United Kingdom. And it’s expected to grow enormously as global travel increases. More than 50,000 new large aircraft slated to take to the skies in the next few decades, potentially quadrupling emissions if left unchecked.