CO2 emissions just the ‘tip of the iceberg’ for the climate cost of air travel

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Copyright: Pixabay

Datum: 19-9-2022

The true cost of flying could be far worse than we thought - with two-thirds of the climate impact coming from emissions that aren’t CO2.

Alongside this greenhouse gas, aircraft engines emit other elements like nitrous oxides and sulphur dioxide as well as particulates such as soot when fuel is burnt. These all contribute to what are known as the non-CO2 climate impacts.

At high altitudes, these emissions can affect the physical and chemical properties of the atmosphere, leading to an increase in greenhouse gases and the formation of contrails (condensation trails). The consequence is a net warming effect on the climate that is bigger than that of CO2.

A European Commission report using the latest available science was published in 2020 and found that the non-CO2 impact of aviation was twice that of CO2 impact.

NGO Transport & Environment (T&E) argues these potential climate-warming emissions are not covered by the EU’s most recent clean aviation laws. Overall, this means that around two-thirds of the climate impact of the sector could be unregulated.

“When reading the EU’s 2030 climate package, published last year, known as ‘Fit for 55’, it’s easy to see that there is barely any mention of non-CO2 effects or the proposed policy measures to address them,” the clean mobility NGO wrote in a recent briefing.

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