|Time series of SRES aviation CO2 emission scenarios (with outlook to 2100). Credit: ACS, Owen et al. Click to enlarge.|
A new study by a team at the Dalton Research Institute in the UK projects that carbon dioxide and other gases from air traffic will become a significant source of global warming as they double or triple by 2050. The study was published in the in ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.
Bethan Owen and colleagues note that aviation is not now one of the main drivers of global warming, with international aviation (the source of 60% of carbon dioxide emissions from aircraft) not even included in the Kyoto Protocol. Global air traffic currently contributes to between 2 and 3% of carbon dioxide emissions.
However, the scientists’ computer model forecast that emissions of carbon dioxide from aviation will likely double or triple within the next 50 years. By 2100, carbon dioxide emissions could increase by up to seven times the current levels, they say.
Even though there have been significant improvements in fuel efficiency through aircraft technology and operational management, this has been outweighed by the increase in air traffic.
—Owen et al.
The calculates future global aviation emissions of carbon dioxide and NOx from air traffic under four of the IPCC/SRES (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change/Special Report on Emissions Scenarios) scenarios: A1B, A2, B1, and B2. In addition, a mitigation scenario has been calculated for the B1 scenario, requiring rapid and significant technology development and transition.
The team used a global model of aircraft movements and emissions (FAST) to calculate fuel use and emissions to 2050 with a further outlook to 2100. The aviation emission scenarios presented are designed to interpret the SRES and have been developed to aid in the quantification of the climate change impacts of aviation. The team made demand projections for each scenario, determined by SRES economic growth factors and the SRES storylines.
The authors examined technology trends in detail and developed for each scenario plausible projections for fuel efficiency and emissions control technology appropriate to the individual SRES storylines. The technology trends that are applied are calculated from bottom-up inventory calculations and industry technology trends and targets.
Future emissions of carbon dioxide are projected to grow between 2000 and 2050 by a factor in the range of 2.0 and 3.6 depending on the scenario. Emissions of oxides of nitrogen associated with aviation over the same period are projected to grow by between a factor of 1.2 and 2.7.
Bethan Owen, David S. Lee and Ling Lim (2010) Flying into the Future: Aviation Emissions Scenarios to 2050. Environ. Sci. Technol., 44 (7), pp 2255–2260 doi: 10.1021/es902530z