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Home > Feature Articles > Logistics and Vehicle Fleet Management > Goods Movement

US Contributes HALF the World's Emissions from Aircraft

Greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. domestic aircraft are expected to increase 60 percent by 2025.

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The United States is responsible for nearly half of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions from aircraft.

Aviation’s Contribution to Global Warming

Aircraft emit huge amounts of carbon dioxide. In fact, they currently account for 12 percent of carbon dioxide emissions from U.S. transportation sources and three percent of the United States’ total carbon dioxide emissions.

Aircraft also 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 altitude that forms condensation trails or “contrails.” Contrails are visible cloud lines that form in cold, humid atmospheres and contribute to the warming impacts of aircraft emissions. Moreover, the persistent formation of contrails is associated with increased cirrus cloud cover, which also warms the Earth’s surface.

Together, these high altitude emissions have a greater global warming impact than if the emissions were released at ground-level. A recent report by the UK Royal Commission on Environmental Protection found that the net effects of ozone, contrail and aviation-induced cloud cover is likely to triple the warming effect of aircraft-emitted CO2 alone. The report concludes that if these estimates are correct and the anticipated growth in aviation realized, aviation may be responsible for between six and ten percent of the human impact on climate by the year 2050.

Aircraft Emissions Expected to Triple by Mid-Century

Greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft are anticipated to increase substantially in the coming decades due to the projected growth in air transport both domestically and globally. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. domestic aircraft are expected to increase 60 percent by 2025.

Globally, aircraft emissions are expected to more than triple by mid-century. While some countries have already begun to respond to these challenges, the United States has failed to address this enormous source of emissions.

EPA Urged to Cut Pollution by Coalition of Cities and Nonprofits

A coalition of state governments, including California, cities, regional governments and environmental groups filed petitions with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in December 2007 urging the agency to address the effects of vast amounts of global warming pollution from the world’s aircraft fleet. The petitions are the first step in a process that requires the EPA to evaluate the current impacts of aircraft emissions, seek public comment and develop rules to reduce aircraft emissions or explain why it will not act.

The petition was filed by Earthjustice on behalf of Friends of the Earth, Oceana and the Center for Biological Diversity.

Also filing petitions are the Attorneys General of California, Connecticut, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (Southern California), the City of New York, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, New Jersey and New Mexico, and the District of Columbia.



Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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