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The Aquilian

How has the Lack of Travel Affected Climate Change?

Some flights are already at full capacity. (Photo Credit by James D. Morgan/Getty Images)

The pandemic has affected numerous areas of the economic market, with layoffs and safety concerns pushing many companies and businesses to bankruptcy. A market that has been hit the hardest due to the Covid-19 pandemic has been the general aviation industry. This has been partly due to the lack of safe travel and the restrictions that have been implemented to lessen the spread of the virus. Although the travel industry has been drastically hit as a whole, global health experts have wondered how the decrease in airplane travel will affect climate change and whether that change will be obsolete when travel inevitably returns.  

Aerial travel (aviation)  accounts for 3.5% of global warming while simultaneously accounts for around 2.5% of global CO2 emissions. Although it may seem low, this figure is an incredibly high figure of pollution for a single industry to contribute. At the moment, it is impossible to lower CO2 emissions from air travel, as the industry simply does not have the technology to do so. On average, a plane produces a little over 53 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) per mile. Although this is an astronomical number of carbon emissions into the ozone layer, planes only contribute 12% of the overall carbon emissions from transportation, while cars contribute over 70%. This contribution is due to a lower frequency of when/how many planes travel, but the current carbon emission into the atmosphere every day is not sustainable. 

However, as the pandemic continues to limit travel across the globe, many global health specialists believe that there will be no long-term effects from the travel restrictions concerning global emissions. Many politicians are hesitant to roll out large-scale environmental policies because of their potential effects on the economy. However, simple solutions can positively affect the environment without destroying the economy.   As it stands, major cities worldwide are experiencing record low levels of air pollutions, with typically polluted cities, experiencing clear skies for the first time in years. 

“The pandemic is fast, shining a spotlight on our ability or inability to respond to urgent threats. But like pandemics, climate change can be planned for in advance if politicians pay attention to the warnings of scientists who are sounding the alarm,” said Peter Gleick, a climate scientist and founder of the Pacific Institute in Berkeley, California reporting to CNBC

Climate change is one of the biggest problems the younger generations will face. The fight against global warming largely depends on our advocation for clean, green solutions to travel. Innovations in electric cars and green energy provide hope in a future of clean energy focused on global health. However, with no straightforward substitute in sight, air travel will likely remain the preferred choice for long-distance travelers despite its effects on the environment.

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    John AusemaMay 18, 2021 at 9:09 am

    Spencer thanks for your article. One point of clarification – it’s a common misconception that greenhouse gases impact the ozone layer, and that this impact is somehow tied to global warming. In fact, greenhouse gases (primarily CO2 and methane) accumulate in the troposphere (the first 10 miles of the atmosphere) where they trap heat radiating from the earth and act like a blanket. Ozone depletion in the stratosphere (above 10 miles) is caused by refrigerants such as CFCs.