Climate Change News
Below are news items on climate change – many with relevance to aviation
Below are news items on climate change – many with relevance to aviation
Last Friday, New York meteorologist Eric Holthaus, who works for the Wall Street Journal covering weather, posted an article explaining the newly released IPCC climate report. The gist of the article, as encapsulated by its headline was “The world’s best scientists agree: On our current path, global warming is irreversible—and getting worse”. He was so stunned by the IPCC report's content that he broke down in tears, and said that to cut his own carbon footprint substantially, he live-tweeted his final flight. He said "I've never cried because of a science report before." And "I realized, just now: This has to be the last flight I ever take. I'm committing right now to stop flying. It's not worth the climate." He realised, at San Francisco Airport that his current lifestyle was no longer sustainable — or conscionable. He felt what was needed was drastic and immediate cuts to CO2 emissions. Holthaus found, on a carbon calculator, that his CO2 from flying some 75,000 miles per year put his carbon footprint at around double the average American. He plans to use rail, Skype and other electronic forms of contact for meetings.
The American Flying Clean Alliance took flight and buzzed the 38th Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization in a plane trailing the banner, “Can’t Spell Procrastination Without ICAO.” The flyover took place as delegates from 191 countries entered the assembly to again consider controls for aviation CO2. Flying Clean said ICAO has been talking about dealing with carbon pollution from planes for 16 years, but doing nothing. ICAO needs to know that the world is watching and expecting action. The Flying Clean Alliance, in the USA, represents thousands of elite frequent flyers and tens of thousands of everyday flyers who believe the aviation sector needs to stop blocking meaningful action on climate. The ICAO vote is expected on 2nd October, when they need to agree to a global market-based system to curb aviation climate emissions in 2016, which would go into effect in 2020. Global aircraft emissions are anticipated to almost double by 2020, if the industry expands as much as it hopes it will. This increase comes after 16 years of conversation since ICAO was first charged with addressing aviation and climate. That's procrastination for you.
A report from the Manchester Metropolitan University shows that the emissions from global aviation will continue to have a climate impact for years and decades after they are emitted. CO2 stays in the atmosphere for a long time, and continues its warming impact. For this reason, the proposal of the aviation industry to go for "carbon neutral growth" after 2020 will have the effect of increasing the climate impact of aviation. "Carbon neutral growth" in the way the industry sees it, by use of reductions in CO2 emissions from technical, operational and biofuels measures, will not keep emissions and their climate impact low enough. For there to be real "carbon neutral growth", so argue Transport & Environment in Brussels, and the Aviation Environment Federation in the UK, requires an effective market based measure MBM) as well. The MMU report concludes that to mitigate aviation’s climate warming impact in 2050 through carbon neutral growth in 2020 will require a basket of measures, including MBMs, (such as the EU ETS) to bridge the gap between what can be achieved by the industry and ICAO’s proposed measures, and what is actually needed.
A new, and rather technical, paper has been produced by CATE, the Centre for Aviation Transport and the Environment, at Manchester Metropolitan University. They have looked at the climate impacts of future scenarios of aviation emissions. The ICAO process that is attempting to deal with aviation emissions only deals with international aviation, ie between countries. Not domestic aviation, which is flying within a country, and of which there is a great deal in countries like the US and China. CATE has produced various scenarios which show that even if the global aviation industry managed to achieve its stated aim of "Carbon Neutral Growth" after 2020, for domestic and international flights, there would be a continuing increase in both radiative forcing (ie. the difference of radiant energy received by the earth and energy radiated back to space) and global temperatures from the aviation emissions. This is because although 30% of CO2 emissions are removed in a few decades, some 50% is not removed for several centuries, and about 20% remain for millennia. This is why under overall climate (temperature) stabilisation scenarios, global CO2 emissions must be reduced dramatically.
Co-Chair of Working Group IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) said: "Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system. Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions." Projections by the IPCC of climate change are based on a new set of 4 scenarios of future greenhouse gas concentrations and aerosols, spanning a wide range of possible futures. The Working Group I report assessed global and regional-scale climate change for the early, mid-, and later 21st century. “As the ocean warms, and glaciers and ice sheets reduce, global mean sea level will continue to rise, but at a faster rate than we have experienced over the past 40 years.” The report finds with high confidence that ocean warming dominates the increase in energy stored in the climate system, accounting for more than 90% of the energy accumulated between 1971 and 2010. “As a result of our past, present and expected future emissions of CO2, we are committed to climate change, and effects will persist for many centuries even if emissions of CO2 stop.”
It is deal time in Montreal. Over the next two weeks 191 countries will decide what to do about climate-warming emissions. If aviation were a country, it would be the 7th largest emitter in the world, based on CO2 alone. And aviation emissions are set to triple by 2050, so this is no small task. Aoife O'Leary, who is Sustainable Shipping & Aviation Officer, for Transport & Environment in Brussels, writing in the Huffington Post, says of the current position on the EU ETS, that the recent offer by the EU to only regulate aviation emissions in EU airspace would mean 60% less intercontinental emissions than were covered by the original law. Even if every country regulated aviation emissions in its own airspace, that would still mean 78% of global emissions would still not be included, with flights over international waters and third countries uncovered. Aoife says a far more sensible and politically viable solution would have been to revise the ETS on the basis of a 50/50 system, which means each country regulates half the carbon of each international flight.That means countries such as the US that do not want to be regulated do not need to include emissions in their airspace but the EU continues to exercise its sovereignty over flights landing at its airports.
Renowned economist, Lord Nicholas Stern, says an ambitious climate change target would boost certainty for investors in energy efficiency and in renwables, in the UK and Europe. The EU should halve its carbon emissions, from their 1990 level, by 2030. Ahead of the launch of the IPCC 5th assessment report, Lord Stern said "vacillation" by the UK government on its commitment to cutting carbon was very damaging to investment in low carbon technologies. While the UK has adopted targets to halve CO2 emissions by 2025 and put the UK on course for a 60% cut by 2030, these are due to be reviewed next year, and could be altered if the UK finds it is out of sync with lower ambition in Brussels. The EU is considering a 40% cut by 2030, but even that is not enough - Lord Stern believes this needs to be a 50% cut in total emissions and a 30% share of renewables in the energy mix. The EU is already on track to meet its target of cutting emissions 20% by 2020, in part thanks to the economic crisis which has reduced output. Meanwhile, on EU aviation CO2 emissions, the uncertainty remains of even their inclusion in the ETS.
The former Irish president and UN high commissioner for human rights, Mary Robinson, is to spearhead a new international push aimed at breaking the climate talks deadlock and silencing sceptics, with a group of senior diplomats and politicians from around the world. She says world governments must get used to the idea of leaving fossil fuel reserves - and accompanying economic value - in the ground unexploited and unburned, if runaway emissions were not to threaten the climate. That has huge implications for economic and social development. She said climate sceptics are "not based in reality" and parts of the business community are "trying to cloud and distort the science", adding that strong political leadership was needed to counter them. She acknowledged that some countries and many businesses with fossil fuel interests would be hostile to the proposal. Recently, the International Energy Agency said: “No more than one-third of proven reserves of fossil fuels can be consumed prior to 2050 if the world is to achieve the 2 °C goal unless carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology is widely deployed.
The ICAO draft resolution to be considered by the 38th Assembly later this week appears equivocal on whether to adopt a global market-based measure (MBM), leaving it to the 39th Assembly in 2016 to make a decision. However, environmental NGOs say that evidence shows early action must be taken to ensure the climate impact from rapidly increasing aviation emissions is minimised. In a submission to the Assembly by their representative body, the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation (ICSA), they call for ICAO member states to agree now to develop a global MBM for adoption in 2015 and implementation in 2016. This would be 4 years earlier than the aviation industry is calling for under its "carbon-neutral growth" target (CNG2020). This would require the holding of an Extraordinary General Assembly in 2015, which although not unprecedented would be highly unusual. The NGOs are convinced, and backed by recent research, that a global MBM is the only feasible way to get meaningful CO2 reductions.
Dave Southgate is an Australian aviation expert, with many years of experience of working on the measurement of aviation emissions. He has produced a new e-book, on the carbon footprint of global scheduled domestic and international passenger flights in 2012. It contains detailed information covering some 85% of global aviation emissions, and gives some interesting insights. For the UK, domestic flights are a very much smaller proportion than in larger countries. However, Heathrow remains by a very large margin the airport with the largest carbon emissions of any worldwide, about 16,584 thousand tonnes of CO2 per year, with Los Angeles in second place with some 11,866 thousand tonnes. The book also shows the UK ranks 9th in the world for carbon emissions per capita from aviation, with (of European countries) Switzerland in 6th place, the Netherlands in 8th place, far above Germany (12th) and France (13th), with the highest per capita aviation emissions being Qatar, UAE, Singapore and Hong Kong, Australia and USA. By total emissions per airline, Lufthansa and British Airways are almost the same, ranked 5th and 6th, with Air France ranked 8th and Ryanair ranked 20th.