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Global aviation emissions up by 11% in 5 years despite recession

27th February, 2012

Despite the fact that historically, economic growth has correlated closely with aviation growth, world-wide aviation has been growing over the past few years – and its emissions have risen too.

Professor David Lee presented new aircraft emissions data to the conference earlier this month, titled ‘A New Flightplan’, that was organised by AEF, T&E, and two US NGOs to consider measures to address aviation emissions at the global level. Aviation emissions have continued to grow strongly throughout the financial crisis, Lee’s research indicates, with an 11.2% increase seen over the period 2005-10.

An UN Environment Report report co-authored by David Lee in 2011 and titled ‘Bridging the Emissions Gap’ said “In 2050, aviation and shipping (combined) emissions are expected to range from 2.09 to 6.77 GtCO2e, [billion tonne CO2 equivalents] representing 10.0 to 32.5% of the median total emissions in 2050.

The reports and estimates do not make any estimate of the impact of NOx (nitrogen oxides) or water vapour emitted at altitude, although these approximately double the warming impact of aircraft. The Government dropped estimates of aviation’s non-CO2 impacts from its latest forecasts for aviation (August 2011).