Center for Biological Diversity Report on Airplane Emissions

AIRPLANE EMISSIONS
Airplanes could generate 43 gigatonnes of planet-warming pollution through 2050, consuming almost 5 percent of the world’s remaining carbon budget, according to a new Center report.

Aircraft emit staggering amounts of CO2, the most prevalent manmade greenhouse gas. In fact they currently account for some 11 percent of CO2 emissions from U.S. transportation sources and 3 percent of the United States’ total CO2 emissions. All told, the United States is responsible for nearly half of worldwide CO2 emissions from aircraft.

In addition to CO2, aircraft emit nitrogen oxides, known as NOx, which contribute to the formation of ozone, another greenhouse gas. Emissions of NOx at high altitudes result in greater concentrations of ozone than ground-level emissions. Aircraft also emit water vapor at high altitudes, creating condensation trails or “contrails” — visible cloud lines that form in cold, humid atmospheres and contribute to the warming impacts of aircraft emissions. The persistent formation of contrails is associated with increased cirrus cloud cover, which also warms the Earth’s surface. Aircrafts’ high-altitude emissions have a greater global warming impact than they would if the emissions were released at ground level.

Alarmingly, aircraft emissions are expected to more than triple by mid-century. But the Center is working to make sure that prediction doesn’t come true: In December 2007 we joined with states, regional governments and other conservation groups to petition the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to address the effects of aircraft pollution under the Clean Air Act. The agency continued to drag its feet on the issue, so in June 2010 the Center and allies sued the agency for its failure to address global warming pollution from aircraft, ships and nonroad vehicles. The next year a court ruled that the EPA must formally determine whether greenhouse gas pollution from aircraft endangers human health and welfare. When the agency still hadn’t done so nearly three years later, in August 2014 the Center and allies filed a notice of intent to sue it over its failure to reduce global warming pollution from aircraft engines. The next month the EPA announced the beginning of a domestic rulemaking process to determine whether the fast-growing carbon emissions from American aircraft endanger public health and welfare.

In June 2015 the EPA finally released a draft finding that greenhouse gas pollution from America’s aircraft fleet does harm the climate and endanger human health and welfare. But the agency also considered handing off responsibility for airplane emissions to a secretive international aviation organization that, for the past 18 years, has refused to curb aircraft-induced global warming. That agency is now debating setting aviation CO2 emissions standards in 2016, but the standards under consideration are woefully insufficient. By as late as 2030, they would likely affect just 5 percent of aircraft — and even then would do next to nothing to lower the industry’s steeply rising emission curve.

The EPA does not have to adopt do-nothing international standards. It has powerful tools: The U.S. Clean Air Act is designed to force the implementation of technological and operational innovation that prevents or reduces carbon pollution. This means adopting operational measures to minimize fuel use and reduce emissions from aircraft; requiring the use of lighter, more efficient airplanes; and producing and using cleaner jet fuels. A recent International Council on Clean Transportation report found that some of the top 20 transatlantic air carriers can drive down emissions by as much as 51 percent using existing technology and operational improvements, and still remain competitive with their better-performing peers.

Finally, in July 2016 — after nine years of delay — the EPA officially acknowledged in a so-called “endangerment finding” that planet-warming pollution from airplanes disrupts the climate and endangers human welfare. But the agency failed to move forward on rules to actually reduce aircraft emissions. The Center’s work to reduce U.S. airplane emissions continues.

Achieving meaningful global action is also critical. That’s why the we urged U.S. climate negotiators to support strong airplane pollution rules in the Paris climate treaty and performed a thorough analysis of the worldwide impacts of pollution from the aircraft sector. Read our report Up in the Air: How Airplane Carbon Pollution Jeopardizes Global Climate Goals.

About Mike Neuman

Identical twin; Long-time advocate of protection of our environment; Married; Father to three sons; Grandfather to one granddaughter; Born and raised in Wisconsin; Graduate of University of Wisconsin; post graduate degrees in agricultural economics and Water Resources Management fro UWMadison; Former School Crossing Guard for City of Madison; Bike to Work for 31 years with Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; Retired from DNR in 2007; Biked to school crossing guard site 2 X daily for 7 years retiring in 2019; in addition to being an advocate of safeguarding our environment, I am also an advocate for humane treatment of animal, children, and people in need of financial resource for humane living. I am presently a Volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, Madison, Wisconsin. I oppose all long (>500 miles) distance travel (via fossil fuel burning) for nonessential purposes and all ownership of more than one home. I am opposed to militarism in any form particularly for the purpose of monetary gain. I am a Strong believer in people everywhere having the right to speak their minds openly, without any fear of reprisal, regarding any concerns; especially against those in authority who are not acting for the public good?in a timely fashion and in all countries of the world not just the U S.. My identical twin, Pat, died in June 2009. He was fired from his job with the National Weather Service despite having a long and successful career as a flood forecaster with the Kansas City National Weather Service. He took a new position in the Midwest Regional Office in Minneapolis. Unfortunately, Pat’s work for the NWS went sour after he began to see the evidence for concern about rising global temperatures shortly after relocating to Minneapolis, and how they appeared to effect of flooding on the Red River that flows out of Canada before entering the U.S. in North Dakota. . Pat and I conversed on a regular basis with other scientists on the Yahoo Group named “Climate Concern “ and by personal email. The NWS denied his recommendation to give his public presentation o n his research at the “Minneapolis Mall of America” in February 2000, which deeply affected h,im. I will h He strongly believed the information ought be shared with the public to which I concurred. That was the beginning of the vendetta against my brother, Patrick J. Neuman, for speaking strongly of the obligations the federal government was responsible for accurately informing the citizenry. A way great similar response to my raising the issue of too many greenhouse gases being emitted by drivers of vehicles on Wisconsin highway system, my immediate supervisors directed: “that neither global warming, climate change nor the long term impacts upon the natural resources of Wisconsin from expansion of the state highway system were to be any part of my job requirements, and that I must not communicate, nor in a memorandum to all the bureau, shall any person who works in the same bureau I do communicate with me, neither verbally on the phone, by email.

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