The industry mainly relies on cleaner fuels and carbon offsetting, but the results show that this is not enough to reduce aviation’s climate impact to zero. Currently, aviation generates about one billion tons of CO2 per year, and flight emissions are currently increasing by 2.5% each year.
Aviation’s impact on climate change is expected to exceed that of its entire history, which dates back to the early 1900s, within the next three decades.
The researchers said experimentation and a better understanding of how uncertainties in climate science and technology will affect aviation emissions control strategies.
The aviation industry’s current approach to climate change
The International Civil Aviation Organization is currently trying to negotiate industry-wide solutions to climate change. They are currently focusing on cleaner forms of jet fuel and improving carbon offset programs.
However, Stefan Kallbekken of the Center for International Climate Research and David G Victor of the University of California say it would be difficult to produce sustainable fuel at scale and that offsetting as a strategy to reach net zero could lead to a dead end.
“It’s no coincidence that these ideas are front and center as they are the least disruptive to how the industry works today. However, eliminating aviation’s impact on global warming cannot rest on the status quo, it requires a more radical overhaul of the industry. The longer it takes to reach that conclusion, the harder it will be to get there,” Kallbekken said.
Instead, they believe the aviation industry should tackle climate impacts beyond CO2such as trailing cirrus clouds (contrails).
Kallbekken explained: “There is a big unknown in how the aviation industry affects the climate, the biggest wildcard being cloud formation and trailing cirrus. Contrails are created when jet engines burn fuel, and some simulations warn that contrail cirrus clouds could have a greater effect on aviation global warming than CO2.”
How should the aviation industry approach net zero commitments?
The researchers, who are part of a project focusing on how aviation can contribute to a low-carbon society, have proposed a number of steps that would give the aviation industry a chance to meet its commitments. net zero.
They advised the industry to be more aware of its current solutions to climate change. They proposed that much greater investment is needed in less viable options such as electric or hydrogen-powered aircraft, which could prove to be effective strategies for reducing trailing cirrus formation and emissions.
They also called on governments to invest more in response strategies, such as finding cleaner and more scalable fuel variants for aircraft.
The research concluded that when considering proposed solutions to climate change, the aviation industry needs to conduct more research into the impact of trailing cirrus clouds and chemical reactions on climate.