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Impact of the Aviation Industry on Global Warming

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Studies
Wordcount: 3284 words Published: 18th May 2020

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Global warming might be the biggest problem that humanity has yet to face, because it involves all of us, wealth, health, nothing can provide guaranteed future unless the problem is fixed or rather reduced in this case. And for the last few decades public concern grew as the situation wasn’t getting any better, thus people started engaging in activist actions so the higher ends would take initiative in their hands. Most people voiced their positions by protesting with displays and banners, signing up for the petition to be presented to representatives and spreading awareness about climate change. And of course, with the public demand, the government or companies couldn’t do anything other than obey the power of people, so the actions against climate change were progress smoothly. For the actions including reduced use of fossil fuels, addition of rechargeable energy such as solar panels, wind turbines and putting strict regulations on emission for every industry to maintain. But in the middle of all progress and transition, the aviation industry often gets left behind due to the public’s limited access to it other than boarding the plane. In other words, the public doesn’t know much about aviation industry emission as they don’t have much access to it other than boarding it, therefore they simply don’t care. Thus the government doesn’t care as much for it, unlike other industry such as auto or industrial production because people show their concern or position regarding the matter as public has a chance to actually get to see the waste being released in front of them such as car exhaust or big power plant pipes. And indifferent public opinion creates a never ending cycle which locks itself in the place and there’s no escape routine, like since people don’t know it they are not going to spread the awareness, then the government is also in indifferent position because there’s no demand and these two create a big hole in emission reduction system as aviation companies get out of without strict supervision over them. Of course since it’s an industry there are some regulations and attempts for transformation, but since there are no strict supervision over it, the results are not as successful as fellow industries. That might be the reason why the aviation industry might not be working as hard as fellow industries. In other words, like any other industry that contributes emission aircrafts should also be part of the strict regulation and transition to green energy. Therefore, to stir strict management actions from the government over aviation industry emission and its transition to clean energy (solar, wind energy; alternative fuels or development of new engine), the public must show their position by protesting with their concerns displayed, spreading awareness, signing the petition to be represented to show the position of public over aviation and its contribution to climate change, so that the government tightens the regulation over aviation industry.

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However, there are individuals and parties who question the importance of aviation’s emission and its regulation. Because the yearly contribution of emissions caused by aircrafts are fairly low compared to other industries such as auto or industrial. That is approximately 2% (781 million tons of CO2) out of all industries in 2015 which is only 12% of all transports compared to 74% of on road vehicles according to ATAG (Aviation Transport Action Group) and thus majority of the public doesn’t know about it, since the numbers are small the awareness doesn’t get spread to society as well as it should be. And the people who are aware of the numbers are neutral towards the issue, because even with prevention the outcome won’t change too much. Plus the party that are indifferent with the aviation emission doesn’t end with the people who use airplanes as a transport or shipping but also the companies that provide the flights such as Chinese Southwest Airlines. Back in 2015 the representative stated, that there’s no need to care for it when the damage by fellow industries are much greater in article released by BBC news in “Can Planes Ever be Clean and Green”. Which makes sense, because why would a provider care about something that customer doesn’t? Since most planes are owned by companies and run as a business under government control, while few planes or jets are under the governments’ ownership but they don’t serve as a transportation method for public but most of the time serve as a transportation for government officials or workers and other are considered as military vehicles. As a result the government doesn’t care for it too, because there’s no one who demands change or shows concern regarding aviation emission and regulation.

It is true that 2% yearly emission out of all industries and 12% of transportation isn’t much. But airplanes are not regular on ground vehicles that we’re used to and its released waste is more dangerous. An article “Plane Exhaust Kills More People than Plane Crashes” by M. Inman on National Geographic News as the title suggests explains the toxic pollutants of airplanes are deadly for its possibility to spread in larger areas due to being released on higher altitude. Also the author added the fact that deaths caused by airplane emissions are much higher than deaths caused by airplane crashes. For instance the main fuel for airplanes is kerosene and on the ground slightly it’s safer than gasoline or propane and of course releases toxins but off ground kerosene is more dangerous, not because its structure but the way its being released and where its being released. On the other hand auto pollutants are released close to the ground yes it can affect nearby people but the outreach wont be as wide as planes which makes it less dangerous for people. But as auto vehicles are for us to use and we have better access to it, so we get to see and smell the pipe releasing its pollutant making people believe that it could be more urgent. But the tragedy of aviation emission doesn’t end on released CO2.

In addition, Clark Duncan in his article, “The surprisingly complex truth about planes and climate change.” Concluded that aviation emission is 50 times worse than cars in short term views on climate change. He discussed about the amount of CO2 releases and also added the facts aviation is tropospheric ozone that causes stronger but shorted bursts of temperature increase. The tropospheric ozone is a layer surrounding earth that has high amount of chemicals such as oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic compounds activated by sunlight and its effects not only humans’ health but also plants’. Which translates to aviation emission isn’t big as of today but still as dangerous as other industries if not more, because the numbers provided for climate change responsibility was only based on the CO2 contribution while other factors such as trails and impact on ozone layer are dismissed. So not regulating it well or making a change will result in further climate change. So if the public must demands strict regulation over aviation industry like any other industries, its easier to fight the climate change, but as of today no one shows concern.

When public doesn’t like something they commit some action to let the higher ends to know that they are unsatisfied, aviation emission is on unsatisfactory level but no one says anything compared to other transportation. Back in December 2015 Tristan Smith a lecturer in Energy and Transport paid a visit to Paris, where the World Climate Change Conference was held. He reported that near Eiffel Tower environmental activists were attending demonstration event to demand better environment protection, but he noticed one thing, that’s the missing signs of aviation and shipping, where in fact they contribute emission too. Whereas, the cars also type of transportation for public but in most cases owned by people themselves have strict emission restriction on it, such as more fuel efficient cars, hybrid versions or electric cars, but to account emissions there’s even section such as better air conditioning, thus there are even available 100% emission free cars. Thus, even if the auto industry is on bigger number scale when it comes to waste, still they are being regulated and improved rapidly, so in the future auto industry might not be a concern at all. While on the other hand, the aviation industry is still a dangerous contributor of carbon dioxide emission wastes, still not being regulated or improved with as much urgency, which translates to further emission percentage from it in the future.

Aviation flights used to be considered as a luxury back in the day, but today its considered same as other transportations but compared to other industries its expected that aviation is still increasing in demand, rapidly so the numbers of emission will rapidly grow as well. According to IATA (International Air Transport Association) press release (67) the passenger numbers might reach 3.91 billion of people by 2017, and its 31% increase from 2012, which is, was 2.98 billion. Passengers number growth equaling 930 million, translates to more CO2 gas being released. Even though the industry itself is promising 50% reduction in CO2 by 2050 compared to 2005, with today’s attitude towards the issue there’s no guarantee in the promise. As ATAG calculates with the aviation industry’s growth the emissions might increase by to 5%, in worst scenario 15% by 2050 so it might get worse than today. In the long run, with the increasing numbers in demand and obviously following pollutants the impact of aviation holding over environment will be a huge deal in near future, so taking actions now before it gets bigger is easier than dealing with a giant hole that wasn’t dealt with in many years. But even without much supervision over them, the industry and airlines are also trying to reach more eco friendly solutions, and it doesn’t only benefit the environment, such solutions do cost huge sum of money in the research period bud might also provide cheaper and faster flights in the future.

Many companies and organizations are working on reducing the pollution of airplanes, and surprisingly there are many ways to reduce the environmental effect of airplane emission, as of today the most popular one for reduction is biofuels. Biofuels are fuels based on regular fuel used for certain vehicle/engine and mixed with some sort of organic waste such as deceased animal or plants and are mostly used on bigger planes that can’t function properly solely on solar/wind power due to its weight. For example, major companies such as Boeing and United Airlines were the first ones to test and invest into further development of alternative fuels. According to an article released by Boeing in December of 2014, informed about the test of “Green Diesel” biofuel being successful and provided the calculation of 50-90% in reduction of carbon emissions. But exactly this method isn’t widely practiced on commercial daily flights as of today, but the future steps are already being taken.

As the biofuels are mix of regular fuels and organic waste concludes they are cheaper than regular fuels so there’s a chance for people to fly cheaper and faster. And the United Airlines declared their transition to biofuels starting 2016 with help of their partners AltAir’s fuels that could reduce emission by 60%. Also informed about the partnership agreement with bioenergy company Fulcrum in June 2015 for larger amount of fuel that will frequently provide fuels by 2018. And it’s only the beginning, because if one company starts using biofuel that not only less harmful but efficient and the possibility of ticket prices decreasing the other companies wont just sit and watch. Because if one company is making a progress while being more affordable while not losing money on that, of course the public will choose them. Some for their environmental concern, while most for cheaper tickets. So in the order not to lose the business the other companies will follow shortly. But there are few that are making a bigger progress by focusing on bigger picture than dealing with smaller details.

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Given that it takes longer and it’s harder for airplanes to improve because they are really in fact iron birds flying high in the sky and are different that on ground ones. Still people thought airplanes, cars and trucks are same transportation vehicle, also concluded that if they can improve auto vehicle’s fuel they could change airplane’s too. And maybe that was the reason why it took longer and hardship for airplanes to become for eco friendly, because most of the time the focus was based on fuel. Since airplane’s fuel is used on higher altitude and uses more energy it’s extremely sensitive than auto vehicles. The possibility of liquid fuel reacting during the flight is dangerous, as the fuel can freeze or loose its consistency thus the engine wont work properly. So there are people who thought maybe improving the engine is easier than creating a fuel, so they made it and are ready to change the game.

Earlier this year the Washington Post reported about  “The next generation of eco friendly airplanes…” .The engines named PurePower made by Pratt & Whitney a united (aerospace) technology company, which provided engines for commercial and military use.  Last year the design of PurePower was unveiled to the public for the first time, after 30 years of research and developingbut it said it was for jets only. Even though engine functions were more efficient and quiet, it was disappointing to hear that the use was limited to lighter aircrafts, because there are many methods for jets to fly green but none for commercial/bigger planes. But thankfully this year the improvements and additions of engines to PurePower family have been made and it’s said to be possible to function for bigger aircraft. This year’s update noted improvements such as 16% less use of fuel, use of less fuel for longer distance and heavier load and up 75% reduced noise pollution with the help of engine’s higher thrust and it could cost less for passengers. With the great improvements demands also rose up to 6000 from various customers all over the world, notable ones such as AirBus, Mitchubishi and Bombardier, also this July prnewswire.com revealed that Air Canada made a deal with Pratt & Whitney for next 15 years. So, at this rate the future of aviation looks brighter than ever, with better engine combined with biofuels the amount of pollution produced by aviation industry might decrease much faster, than only working on fuels. But since the limit of technology improvement is none for now, the possible “futuristic” rides are coming with its design.

As technology improvement reaches higher the efficiency doesn’t stop on the fully functional form of a vehicle or gadget but also its availability to be used in other fields as well. And exactly that was the concept of future airplane/terminal created by Switzerland’s École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne as reported by Forbes author Kristin Tablang this July. The concept showed that by it looks it was similar to a plane that has 2 extra main bodies. So this vehicle could fly with the 3 in total cabins, and the 2 extra ones detaching and being used as a train/metro. The estimated weight is about 29.5 tones and 98 feet long, as for passenger numbers it 450 people per cabin and 150 self contained fuselage, which emphasizes its ability to carry a load of 3 huge commercial planes while using the twice as small engine. So if this concept becomes reality in near future, the way transportations work on and off ground would be really be like “Killing two birds with one stone”. Not only it can bear with heavier weight in flight with smaller engine, but also the cabins working off ground could also mean that any combination of transportation could be made and the fields they could be used gets wilder. If such designs come into real life, the future is then.

In conclusion, for aviation industry to improve the government management over it is important, to maintain and make the management more functional the public must let their positions known to the government with various ways such as protest or representing of petitions. Aircrafts are same transports as cars but differ as a vehicle, the fuel it uses, and the way and where it releases it makes it more dangerous. Due to the fact aircrafts being off ground vehicles emissions spread to wider areas and their contrails also impact climate change. So any industry that contributes pollution to environment should have a strong supervision over them, even if the numbers contributed are not as high fellow industries. Furthermore, even if aviation improvements are taking longer and harder because aircrafts fly on high altitude, still the government has to maintain certain limitations over it and set bars to reach so that the industry will work harder to reach them. Even though, the aircraft industry is making a progress with biofuels and new type of engines and designs but having set goals might help the progress against climate change to go smoother, so as a public who uses airplanes as a transport and the earth as home we should give a little push to higher ends so that they can be strict.

Works Cited:

  • ATAG “Aviation and climate change.”  ATAG, n.d. Web.2016.
  • ATAG. “Facts and Figures.”. ATAG, n.d. Web. May 2016.
  • BBCNews. “Can planes even be clean and green” BBC, n.d. Web. 28 May 2015
  • Braconnier,Deborah.  ”Airplane contrails worse than CO2 emissions for global warming: study.” Science X Network, n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2011.
  • Clark, Duncan. “The surprisingly complex truth about planes and climate change.”                       Guardian News and Media Limited, n.d. Web. 9 Sept. 2010.
  • IATA. “AirlinesExpect 31% Rise in Passenger Demand by 2017.”  International Air Transport Association (IATA), n.d.  Press Release No. 67 Web. 10 Dec. 2013.
  • ICAO. “Aircraft Engine Emissions.” © International Civil Aviation Organization,  n.d. Web. 2016.
  • Inman,Mason. “Plane Exhaust Kills More People Than Plane Crashes. “ National Geographic Partners, LLC, n.d. Web. 10 Oct. 2010.
  • Jensen, Bret, and Jessica Kowal. “Boeing Conducts World’s First Flight with ‘Green Diesel’ as Aviation Biofuel.” Boeing., n.d. Web. 3 Dec. 2014.
  • Smith, Tristan.”Shipping and aviation are climate change’s main culprits – but they were nowhere to be seen at Paris.”. Independent Digital News and Media Ltd,               n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2015.
  • Tabling, Kristin. “This Intriguing Aircraft Concept Aims to Eliminate Airport Lines and Terminals.” Forbes Media LLC, n.d. Web. 12 July 2016.
  • United.”Alternative fuels.” United Airlines, Inc, n.d. Web. 2016.
  • Washington Post. “The next generation of eco-friendly airplanes has arrived…quietly.” Washington Post Company, n.d. Web. 12 Jan. 2015.


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