Addressing the projected growth in greenhouse gas emissions from the aviation sector will be integral to solving climate change. Aviation accounts for 13 percent of global transportation carbon dioxide emissions, and emissions from aviation are on track to quadruple by 2050 if left unchecked.
The share of aviation’s contributions to total global transportation emissions is even larger if non-carbon-dioxide emissions are included. In addition to carbon dioxide, aircraft emit other gases that lead to global warming—including water vapor, black carbon, nitrogen oxides (NOx), and sulfur oxides (SOx). The climate impact is potentially double, too, because airlines emit all of these greenhouse gases directly into the upper atmosphere.
Complicating the problem, the number of passengers on U.S. airlines is projected to double to 1 billion in the next 10 years, and the number of passengers globally will more than double to 6 billion by 2026.
Sustainable growth of the airline industry—which already contributes $1.3 trillion to the domestic economy annually, supports 10 million U.S. jobs and 15 million jobs worldwide, and sustains tens of millions more jobs for the tourism industry—is key to the health of our economy and our environment.
So what is being done to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the aviation sector? How can public and private sectors ensure the growth of the airline industry without harming the climate? A new issue brief from Rebecca Lefton and Samuel Grausz examines these questions by looking at steps the United States and Europe are taking.
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