Researchers say that current aviation net-zero projects have ‘significant blind spots’ that could still contribute to global warming.
In a report published in the science journal Nature, it was found that airlines fail to consider the warming effects of streaks of clouds created by planes, only considering carbon emissions produced by jet fuel.
PhD candidate, Nicoletta Brazzola and her research team at the prestigious ETH Zurich in Switzerland found that, with current net-zero strategies, the aviation sector worldwide could still increase global average temperatures by between 0.1°C and 0.4°C, putting at risk the Paris agreement of holding global temperature rises to 1.5°C.
Brazzola stated that airlines’ current efforts to help avoid the catastrophic effects of climate change may not be significant enough.
“We found the mitigation efforts needed to get aviation to a place where it’s compatible with the Paris agreement are enormous,” Brazzola said.
“Without a very strong reduction in demand and without very rapid, almost infeasible switches to clean technologies, we would in all cases need to deploy carbon removal to a very large extent,” she said, expressing doubts regarding whether carbon-removal projects of that scale would even be feasible.
2/ International aviation remains outside of climate agreements and current mitigation efforts, such as CORSIA by @ICAO, only focus on aviation's CO2 emissions. Yet, most of aviation’s impacts on the climate are caused by non-CO2 effects, such as contrail cirrus.
— Nicoletta Brazzola (@Niki_Brazzola) July 25, 2022
Researcher’s backs call for radical change in how industry addresses climate action
Professor Paul Williams from the University of Reading supported the results found in the study and has called for a rapid transition to new fuels and technologies, including hydrogen and batteries, over current carbon offsetting initiatives.
“This new study makes a compelling case for moving away from carbon-neutral aviation as the main policy goal, and focusing on climate-neutral aviation instead,” Professor Williams said.
“This would be a radical change of direction, but I think it is long overdue.”
This report comes as the UK government recently announced its commitment to having all domestic aviation and airports in England reach net-zero emissions by 2040.
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