Greta Thunberg’s recent journey across the Atlantic by ship has brought the environmental shortcomings of aviation to light. Research shows that a large airport consumes as much electricity as a city of 100,000, as context there are only 3 cities in Ireland with over 100,00 people, Dublin, Cork and DúnLaoghaire. With such a sizable carbon footprint, changes must be made. According to the Landmark Climate Change Agreement in 2016, by 2027 international flights must offset emissions beyond 2020 levels.

As a result of the industry taking steps to be more efficient, due to innovation, C02 emissions have reduced by over 80% since the first jet aircraft in 1939. Through improvements in engines, and aircraft material, airlines have benefited in operational gains. As air travel is affected by climate change due to unpredictable weather, it’s in their best interest to combat climate change.  

However, the downward slope of plane emission tilts down too slowly to reach their carbon goals. Especially, considering the steep increase in passengers, as there is projected continual growth in those able to travel by commercial air and growth in those able to fly privately. It is estimated that passenger numbers will double over the next two decades. The slow-moving environmental steps currently being taken are not equally balanced to the fast-paced growth in customers the industry will be experiencing.

More extensive moves must be made, if aviation wishes to meet its environmental goals. An answer lies in the development of innovative ideas. Ideas that already exist but need further progress in order to make them commercially viable such as biofuels, new wing models that lower fuel usage, improving engines thereby making them less fuel guzzling, using lighter materials in construction of planes and making crafts more aerodynamic. The aviation industry has a lot of options available to help it take the necessary steps to meet its goals and greatly lessen its adverse effects on our planet, it just means that resources, time and minds must be committed to these options. 

The safety net provided by the potential to purchase credits in the carbon market, if airlines don’t manage to offset their emissions by their deadline, is a loophole that will not help their industry and will not help our planet. While the aviation industry has shown initiative by constantly lowering its carbon emission through developments in its planes and flight techniques, it still has a long way to go and a lot more effort to apply in order to meet its goal.


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Photo by Joel & Jasmin Førestbird on Unsplash



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