Researchers with the United Kingdom’s University of Southampton are worried that the airline industry will become a major source of carbon dioxide emissions. Their solution: raise ticket prices so much that fewer people can afford to fly.
“If all mitigation-measures are successfully implemented, it is still likely that traffic growth-rates will continue to out-pace emissions reduction-rates,” reads the study by environmental engineers at Southampton.
“Therefore, to achieve an overall reduction in CO2 emissions, behaviour change will be necessary to reduce demand for air-travel,” the study adds. “However, reducing demand will be strongly resisted by all stakeholders in the industry; and the ticket price-increases necessary to induce the required reduction in traffic growth-rates place a monetary-value on CO2 emissions of approximately 7–100 times greater than other common valuations.”
Globally, the airline industry consumes more than five million barrels of oil per day and emits large amounts of carbon dioxide emissions — which scientists say contribute to global warming. UK engineers believe that even as airlines reduce their carbon footprint, the growing ability of people around the world to fly will cause emissions to increase above airline cuts.
In the U.S., airline deregulation in the 1970s helped pave the way for more competition and relatively cheaper airline tickets. A similar phenomenon has happened worldwide and ticket prices have “dropped [in the UK] by 1.3 per cent a year between 1979 and 2012, and international fares have fallen by 0.5 per cent per annum between 1990 and 2012,” said Professor John Preston, travel expert and co-author of the study.
Preston said that airline ticket prices would need to increase 1.4 percent per year “breaking the trend of increasing lower airfares,” notes co-author Matt Grote.
“There is little doubt that increasing demand for air travel will continue for the foreseeable future,” said Preston. “As a result, civil aviation is going to become an increasingly significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.”
While the U.S. government has largely focused on power plant and agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, European governments have already tried to tax global airline emissions. They abandoned their plans to tax international airliners, including from flights over U.S. airspace, after getting heated opposition from the airline industry and some governments.
In 2012, President Obama signed the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act into law, which holds “operators of civil aircraft of the United States harmless from the emissions trading scheme.”
Environmental groups are still pressuring the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate airline industry emissions. ThinkProgress reports the “Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth both announced last week that they are planning to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to force it to craft specific carbon limitations for the industry.”
But while emissions from the airline industry have grown, global temperatures have been stagnant for more than 17 years, according to satellite data.
“[T]here has been no global warming — none at all — for 17 years 10 months,” writes Christopher Monckton, a famed climate skeptic and the third Viscount Monckton of Brenchley. “This is the longest continuous period without any warming in the global instrumental temperature record since the satellites first watched in 1979.”
“It has endured for more than half the entire satellite temperature record,” Monckton added. “Yet the lengthening Pause coincides with a continuing, rapid increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration.”
The Southampton engineers, however, argue that global governance is needed to regulate airline emissions as more people begin to travel.
“It is clear that, whilst aviation must remain one piece of the transport-jigsaw, environmentally a global regulator with ‘teeth’ is urgently required,” the engineers wrote.
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