I work as a consultant for the aviation sector, including airlines, airports and related businesses, so I state my perspective up-front.
Thomas Hunter (see yesterday’s Crikey) is yet another author devoting wasted column inches to the aviation sector and its impact on global warming. In doing so he promotes a problem that is the equivalent of the corner store in a Wal Mart world. Aviation accounts for 1.7% of global Greenhouse gas emissions. Even if its growth causes a doubling of emissions in the next 20 years, as some claim it will, aviation still won’t equal the flatulence of Europe’s cows (at 4%).
The focus on airlines is one of the great Greenhouse furphies. Transport in total equals 14% of emissions, compared with agriculture at 18% and stationary energy at 53%. Just repeating, aviation is 1.7%.
So why is so much time wasted on aircraft? For starters it’s an easy target for the intellectually weak to demonise. And TV networks have plenty of file footage of aircraft taxiing at crowded airports.
Of course, climate change is a real problem. And airlines — even at 1.7% — are part of the issue and the solution. But it is a matter of perspective, reality and priorities.
The aviation industry is one of the world’s great innovators. Modern airlines like those in Australia, Asia, the Middle East and parts of Europe, operate new, more fuel-efficient aircraft. Aircraft and engine manufacturers are achieving amazing breakthroughs in technology. The 787 Dreamliner and A350 XWB with new GE and Rolls Royce engines will be some of the most advanced and efficient machines the world has seen.
The industry is also working with governments for smarter, shorter routes and improved air traffic control procedures. Weight is being taken out of aircraft in the pursuit of market efficiencies, particularly as aviation fuel becomes increasingly more expensive. All evidence points to air travel being 25% more fuel-efficient by 2020. This will help limit the 1.7% of CO2 emissions attributed to air transport even further.
As you reported in Crikey yesterday, Emirates has bought 55 of the A380 — arguably one of the greenest forms of public transport in the world. This 500-seater will carry more people, using less fuel, more quietly and producing less CO2. If only the average government bus could promise the same.
You ask for a solution. Head to China and take a look at its industrial energy use. Focusing instead on 1.7% of the problem is an otherwise dubious distraction.
Andrew Parker is the Managing Director of Parker & Partners Public Affairs and Partner at Ogilvy PR Worldwide. He also manages that firm’s transport and aviation practice.