WHERE IS THE INNOVATION THE AVIATION INDUSTRY NEEDS?
January 01, 2020 by Extinction Rebellion
“Flying is immoral. If your self- indulgent dream is to fly around the world, you can do it without me.”
My boyfriend has never sugar- coated his opinions, but this cut straight through me. Our planet is replete with beauty. I have always wanted to explore it with the person I love.
Wanderlust inspires us to care about the planet and the people we share it with. Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.”
Unfortunately, my boyfriend has a point: though we aspire to break down (or fly over) walls, frivolous aviation could be fatal to more than just bigotry. If we don’t get our emissions in check in the coming decade we face climate catastrophe.
Doing this requires individuals emit an average of 1.2-1.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per person, annually. Average UK citizens emit around 5.99 tonnes. One return flight to New York (from London) will use a year’s worth of emissions in two fell swoops.
I want to see the aviation industry with a considerably lower greenhouse gas footprint.
Improvements are underway. Between 1968 and 2014 the average fuel burn of new aircraft fell approximately 45%, largely thanks to better design and equipment. Moving beyond the need for conventional fuels entirely, the German Aerospace centre’s all-electric CE-liner gives me the most hope for zero- emissions flight. Unfortunately, it is not due to enter the market until 2035.
I am confident that the scientific advances needed are possible within my lifetime, but by the time they are commercially available it could be too late. I hope that human intelligence kicks in before then and people take a step back and wait. More business should be conducted online, frivolous flying can be avoided, and train travel re-discovered. Without collective action now, low lying destinations could be underwater, local communities emigrated and coral reefs bleached and lifeless… There will be nowhere left to travel to.