We’ve all known for a while that the airline industry is a major culprit toward climate pollution, but it’s difficult to really understand or act on the climate impact of a single flight when prices are low and it’s such a convenient way to travel.
You see, it isn’t just that planes use fossil fuels to power a journey – it’s the fact they fly high in the sky that makes them mega pollution machines.
“Because aircraft emissions are released high in the atmosphere, they have a potent climate impact, triggering chemical reactions and atmospheric effects that heat the planet,” says the David Suzuki Foundation.
To put things into perspective, the foundation says that one return flight from Montreal to London emits as much carbon emissions as heating a European home for an entire year. And avoiding a single flight is the same as going car-free for a year. Oof.
Clearly, how we travel needed a long-overdue shake up.
And there’s no better timing than during a year when we’ve been forced into stillness, allowing us to physically see the toll our obsession with travelling takes on the natural world (cc: the rare pink and white Chinese dolphins returning to Hong Kong harbour or the record number of flamingos in Mumbai).
Look at these two stunning photographs of flamingos at the TS Chanakya wetlands in Navi Mumbai. Shot by the talented Pratik Chorge for @htTweets. The first image is on page one of the Hindustan Times Mumbai edition today. #birds #Mumbai #flamingos #wildlife #India #photography pic.twitter.com/rrEosfVH0O
— Paroma Mukherjee (@ParomaMukherjee) April 19, 2020
News of this historic change to aircraft design is very, very welcome. Airbus has unveiled three new zero-emission commercial aircraft designs that could be flying as soon as 2035.
Named ZEROe, the proposed planes would rely on hydrogen as the main power source, rather than fuel.
The designs include a Turbofan that can travel transcontinentally and seat 120 to 200 passengers; a short-haul Turboprop option that seats up to 100; and a “blended-wing body” design that seats up to 200 passengers and to be honest, reminds us of a Sunnyboy. This design has a super-wide fuselage, allowing for some funky cabin layout options.
The transition to scale up renewable energy and create a sustainable future for aviation will require major government and industry support. Everyone needs to band together behind this common, climate-friendly goal.
And in case you were wondering, our current way to reduce the impact of flying – to offset carbon emissions when buying a ticket – isn’t working. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) says that only 1 percent of passengers offset their carbon emissions through these voluntary schemes. Bleak.
Thankfully, we’ve now got hope. Airbus believes Hydrogen “holds exceptional promise as a clean aviation fuel” and is likely the solution for many industries to meet their climate-neutral targets.
“This is a historic moment for the commercial aviation sector as a whole and we intend to play a leading role in the most important transition this industry has ever seen. The concepts we unveil today offer the world a glimpse of our ambition to drive a bold vision for the future of zero-emission flight,” said Guillaume Faury, Airbus CEO.
“I strongly believe that the use of hydrogen – both in synthetic fuels and as a primary power source for commercial aircraft – has the potential to significantly reduce aviation’s climate impact”.
The only question we have is, what took you guys so long?
(Lead Image: Provided / Airbus)