Spoiler alert! Chemtrails aren’t real but the world of aviation isn’t exactly environmentally friendly either.
The debate over climate change is also a debate about scientific facts and research. According to the research and the numbers from various sources, it’s ironic that a fair amount of air pollution comes from aircraft. The urge to get from here to there as quickly and as often as possible has created growth in passenger and cargo flights worldwide.
If the aviation industry were a country, it would rank in the top 10 in terms of carbon dioxide emissions. All flights worldwide account for about 2.5 percent of global CO2 emissions. Left unchecked, those emissions are estimated to grow by two to four times over the next three decades. And, aviation emissions could help push global warming over the 2 degrees Celsius line, which is the recognized goal to limit temperature increases.
Atmosfair, a German organization, calculates that a roundtrip flight from, say, Denver to New York produces the equivalent of nearly a year’s worth of emissions from a car, and more than the annual emissions of an average person living in India.
In addition to carbon dioxide, planes also emit nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides, black carbon and as well as water vapor that can form heat-trapping clouds. Also, because these emissions take place in the upper troposphere, the effects are magnified.
Since 1978, American commercial airlines have improved their fuel efficiency by 120 percent. United and Southwest airlines have each announced they plan on trying alternative fuels. But alternative fuels are still in the experimental phase and there’s no guarantee enough can be produced to meet the high demand.
The Environmental Protection Agency is working on rules to address carbon dioxide emissions from aircraft. Its findings are due in April. The U.S. produces about a third of the global aviation emissions. The EPA was forced to formulate a plan after it was sued by environmental groups.
Air pollution from planes in Europe is to rise by nearly half in the next two decades, according to the European Aviation Environmental report. Its findings are based on flights over the last 25 years. The report said that aircraft emissions of nitrogen oxides – which are linked to lung damage – has doubled since 1990 and are expected to increase by 43 percent over the next two decades.
Regulating aircraft emissions is a global issue. Regulating flights that leave one country and land in another is difficult unless each country has the same emissions standards.
Alice Bows-Larkin is an atmospheric scientist at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of Manchester. She believes that reducing the number of planes in the sky is the only way to keep emissions at an acceptable level. She hasn’t flown since 2005.
“Flight is the most carbon-intensive activity that we can do,” Bows-Larkin said. “We need to do something sooner rather than later. Time is massively against us.”