According to Wired, “forget everything you’ve heard about airlines and CO2 emissions. The news is much worse than anyone thought.” Recently disclosed reports are now revealing that air travel is resulting in 20% more CO2 emissions than previously predicted. How much? Try 1.5 billion tons of it’s gettin’ hot in here carbon dioxide a year, by 2025. That’s about half of what the entire European Union emits today (3.1 billion tons annually). But in an increasingly global society, can we really expect people to fly less, sacrificing the convenience and necessity of air travel?
Green air travel: a convenient myth? Boeing’s new 787, is touted as the most efficient aircraft of its kind, 20% more to be exact, thanks to its more efficient engines, composite materials, and aerodynamics. Yet the 787 is more of a Chevy Tahoe Hybrid equivalent than a Prius, trading per-seat efficiency for the convenience of non-stop travel.
787 vs. A380: the efficiency (PR) arms race. When the company announced the development of the 787, then named the 7E7, to emphasize its efficiency, Boeing chose to put its money on smaller aircraft to serve the non-stop, regional travel needs of fewer than 300 passengers. Meanwhile, Airbus’ A380 will serve hub to hub transportation, carrying as many as 800 in its monstrous double decker cabin. Of course, the jury on the true efficiency of either aircraft will remain out until both are configured and flying, perhaps with far fewer seats, trading efficiency for the convenience of extra room for passengers, and throwing claims such as Airbus’ that the A380 is “more efficient than driving a car” out the window.
Experts such as Joel Makower confirm that the primary sources of our carbon footprints result from how we move our bodies, making it no surprise that auto manufacturing and air travel tend to be hot topics in climate change news.
But even as higher oil prices incentivize airline manufacturers to design more efficient planes, is air travel doomed, until a breakthrough alternative to traditional jet fuel is introduced? Perhaps if Boeing keeps delaying its production schedule, it’s doomed either way.