This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

August 04, 2004

Report: Aviation Growth Threatens Greenhouse Gas Targets

Countries throughout the world have set either voluntary or mandatory targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, with much of the focus on emissions from industries, power plants, and cars, as well as emissions due to heating and cooling buildings. But according to a recent report from the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions may be threatened by an international community that has grown to be too...international. Twenty years from now, says the report, there will be twice as many airplanes, and they'll fly three times as many miles as are flown today. The report projects that aviation may be responsible for 15 percent of the total contribution to climate change by 2050.

Artist's conception of the 7E7 in flight.

The fuel-efficient Boeing 7E7 will help alleviate the projected growth in greenhouse gas emissions from aviation.
Credit: Boeing

The report suggests solutions such as steep environmental taxes on airline flights, greater use of substitutes such as teleconferencing, and government-supported strategies to shift passengers from air transport to rail for journeys of up to about 300 miles. The report notes that using rail as a remedy would be effective in the European Union, where rail is plentiful and 45 percent of all flights travel less than 300 miles. It's unclear, however, whether such policies will work for China, which is currently experiencing an 8 to 10 percent annual growth in its aviation industry. See the executive summary (PDF 217 KB) or view the full report (PDF 1.24 MB). Download Acrobat Reader.

Of course, airlines can also reduce their greenhouse gases by using more fuel-efficient airplanes. Boeing's 7E7, for instance, is designed to use 20 percent less fuel than similar-sized aircraft by employing aerodynamic shapes and lightweight composite materials. Boeing currently has orders for 62 7E7s and deposits on nearly 200 additional 7E7s, although the airplane is still on the drawing boards. See the 7E7 Web site and the Boeing press release.

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