Reducing one’s carbon footprint through flying choices

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By Vincent Valery


Jan. 20, 2022, © Leeham News: Discussions about reducing commercial aviation's carbon emissions have become more prominent over the last few years.

Many projects claim that electric(-hybrid) and hydrogen aircraft will be available in the not-too-distant future to make net-zero emissions flying a reality. Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs) will also drastically reduce lifecycle carbon emissions with only minor changes to the current aircraft.

The IATA committed to a net-zero carbon emissions target by 2050. While all those long-term aspirations are well, significant challenges remain.

LNA has highlighted that the low energy density of batteries means that electric aircraft can at best work on small planes for short flights. Developing a medium-haul hydrogen-powered aircraft will require numerous innovations that suggest an entry into service before 2035 is not realistic. The challenges in increasing SAFs supply affordably to meaningful levels are monumental.

We have pointed out that all the above are far into the future. To meaningfully reduce emissions over the next decade, the introduction of more fuel-efficient gas turbines and turboprops is the only realistic and impactful lever.

Another lever has not been mentioned so far to reduce one's carbon emissions. Other than not flying at all, how we fly from A to B can have significantly different carbon footprint levels.

This series will highlight the different levels of carbon emissions depending on how one flies on different routes.

  • Setting the problem out;
  • Challenges in defining unit emissions;
  • Factors outside one’s control;
  • Introducing a few examples.

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