What is climate-neutral aviation and how do we get there?

Read the full story at Anthropocene Magazine.

Airplanes affect the climate in complex ways. In addition to carbon dioxide, burning jet fuel produces water vapor, sulfur dioxide, soot, nitrogen oxides, and contrail clouds, all of which can affect global temperature. Emissions other than carbon dioxide – especially contrails, which are well known to have a warming effect – are responsible for two-thirds of aviation’s climate impact. But these emissions aren’t covered by current international climate agreements and other efforts to mitigate climate change.

Yet getting a handle on these non-carbon dioxide emissions is crucial in order to meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, a new study shows.

Researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich modeled at the climate impacts of aviation under various scenarios. If aviation continues to grow at the expected rate and airplanes continue to primarily use fossil jet fuels, then aviation alone could contribute an additional 0.4°C of warming by 2100, the researchers report in Nature Climate Change.

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