February 21, 2020, ©. Leeham News: After spending several Fridays looking at different possibilities and technologies that can lower air transport’s environmental footprint we now turn the discussion to what path forward makes sense and how shall we set our priorities.
Firt priority, reset impressions and expectations
There is no question the world is facing a serious environmental challenge caused by the increase in emissions of greenhouse gases, Figure 1. The raise of CO2 emissions over the last 50 years is exponential.
Those who choose to ignore this trend are saying “I live a comforting life that I don’t want to change, any problems I leave to my kids to handle”. Or put another way: our parents worked hard to give us a better life, it’s questionable if we do the same.
Figure 1 also shows the sources of the problem. Air transport is not one of those. Yet the public opinion thinks it is. Air transport is very visible and not part of everyday life.
It’s easy to point to this pseudo-problem when changes in the daily commute (the bulk of the transport emissions) or our jobs (the largest emissions problem, our inefficient industrial processes) are closer and would affect us directly.
So “Flyshame” spreads without rebuttal and the unrealistic claims of the over 200 electric/hybrid projects that these will fix our environmental problems reinforce the notion air transport is the problem area “but hey, we have a solution”.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Air transport is NOT the problem and no, we don’t have a solution with those 200 projects.
First, we need to reset impressions:
We shall also bring expectations in check:
The above means we need to stop hyping hopeless projects presented by entrepreneurs who want to be the next Elon Musk. The investments shall be directed to stuff that really brings us forward, not inflate a hype bubble.
There are sensible developments in the electrification of flight. It’s called “more electric” and we will discuss these technologies and others in subsequent Corners. These technologies have been part of aeronautical research for decades, however, so it’s nothing new.
The resetting expectations is all about setting targets and directions for what we can and shall do that are challenging but bring real progress. A good example is an update of our ATC procedures, gaining us what a full generational shift of airframes and engines would bring to our 20,000 airliners flying every day.
So there are urgent things we need to do but it’s not about further inflating the electric/hybrid bubble. In addition to the above, there is more we can do and we will discuss this in subsequent Corners.