The Need for Eco-Flying

According to a recent report written by many of the world’s most respected scientists, carbon emissions, that nasty problem at the root of most climate change issues, is largely due to humans burning gas, oil, and coal. Airplanes alone generate two percent of the world’s carbon emissions. That amount is likely to increase substantially over the coming years as fare prices lower and more people can afford to fly. Already, airplanes are the fastest growing source of carbon dioxide in the United Kingdom and in several other countries around the world.

Airplanes rolling off the assembly line today are far more fuel efficient than planes from forty years ago. If for no other reason, today’s fuel prices demand greater efficiency. How can a business justify the expense of operating an aircraft if it bleeds the bottom line into the red? A fuel-efficient aircraft is more cost-effective. It’s also one way to keep airfares down for commercial passengers.

The problem is that even the newest aircraft aren’t eco-friendly enough. And though future aircraft designs will incorporate even greater fuel efficient systems, they may still generate enormous amounts of carbon dioxide. But regardless of the environmental issues, how many people will opt to remain on the ground?

Tony Blair, Britain’s Prime Minister said, “We need to look at how to make air travel more energy efficient, how you develop the new fuels that will allow us to burn less energy and emit less.” Initial development of such technologies will be expensive, but the payoff will be greater savings over the long run, not to mention a planet that may still be livable far into the future.

Some aviation experts suggest that another solution may be to improve the efficiency of air and ground traffic control. This is something that’s been on the drawing board for quite some time, and in the United States, the FAA is already developing such a system. Based in part on GPS technology, the new air traffic control system will be much more efficient, minimizing idle time and wasteful exhaust. It will also enable planes to fly closer to one another which will increase overall traffic. That offers the possibility of scheduling more flights during times when they’ll have less negative impact on the environment.

For those of us who love to fly, finding and supporting solutions to lower airplane carbon emissions should be a top priority.