Airlines could reduce climate change impact by 10 per cent

emissions from airplanes

Airlines could reduce their impact on climate change by up to 10% by making small changes to some flight routes, according to research by University of Reading.
Scientists found airlines could reduce the environmental damage for which they are responsible by avoiding areas where emissions have the largest impact. The changes would increase operating costs by only around one per cent.

The results were published this week in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

According to lead author Volker Grewe, from the DLR-Institute of Atmospheric Physics and Professor at the Delft University of Technology: “Around 5% of man-made climate change is caused by global aviation, and this number is expected to rise. However, this impact could be reduced if flights were routed to avoid regions where emissions have the largest impact.

Aviation is different from many other sectors, since its climate impact is largely caused by non-CO2 effects, such as contrails and ozone formation. These non-CO2 effects vary regionally, and, by taking advantage of that, a reduction of aviation’s climate impact is feasible.”

Our study looked at how feasible of such a routing strategy is. We took into account a representative set of weather situations for winter and summer, as well as safety issues, and optimised all trans-Atlantic air traffic on those days.

However, the study pointed out that the concept of climate-optimal routing had not been developed enough to be directly implemented in the real world.

Professor Grewe explains: “First, the calculation of the climate-change functions must be robust, and fast enough to become operational, and we must have high confidence in the forecast weather conditions. Second, consensus needs to be achieved on to what extent additional contrail formation should be allowed, which – over a chosen time span – cools the global climate more than the additional CO2 emitted by climate-optimised routing warms. Third, the implications on air traffic management have to be identified. Although safety issues do not limit the results for the North Atlantic flight corridor, they might limit the applicability in areas of higher air traffic densities. And finally, a market-based measure or alternative measures, including these non-CO2 effects, are needed to foster climate-optimal routing.”


climate change

A reduction of 10 per cent in the damage to the climate caused by air travel will not make long haul flights sustainable. So what are passengers to do? Long distance travellers should have an environmentally friendly alternative to flying, according to VoyageVert, the pioneers behind a new breed of fast passenger ships for sailing the Atlantic and beyond.

Long haul flights account for 750 million tons of CO2 emitted into our atmosphere each year and there is currently no practical alternative for those wanting to minimise their contribution towards climate change.

VoyageVert wants to offer travel by fast sailing ships as stepping stones between continents so that travellers do not have to fly or use fossil-fuel powered vessels. The team aims to have a trans-Atlantic passenger service in operation by 2020. Perhaps the ubiquitous fly/drive holiday will face competition from a sustainable alternative. Sail/cycle trip anyone?

Ethical insurance

The ETA has been voted the most ethical insurance company in Britain for the second year running by the Good Shopping Guide.

Beating household-name insurance companies such as John Lewis and the Co-op, the ETA earned an ethical company index score of 89.

The ETA was established in 1990 as an ethical provider of green, reliable travel services. Twenty six years on, we continue to offer cycle insurance, travel insurance and breakdown cover while putting concern for the environment at the heart of all we do.


  1. Jim Clark


    Not good enough 10% is as useless as nothing. We do not have passports. We have never flown, we are lucky that we have lived in areas such as Cumberland (as it was then), Scotland and now Wales. Everybody though has access to the coast or countryside within easy reach of their home. We made that decision in the 1960s although for a lot of our life our income was well below the average.
    It’s about time the average holiday maker was asked “is your journey really necessary”? Instead of risking skin cancer and the planet how about staying home. It will never happen, people are too greedy and governments too frightened of the power industry and fat gutted Sun readers to do anything that will prevent climate change.
    Conservation organisations should put their money where their mouth is and stop advertising foreign holydays and stop encouraging people to travel miles to see a rare bird or visit some far off nature reserve.
    The climate liars of course are emboldened by Russian Puppet and climate liar Trump.

  2. Jane nolan


    It says 10% but really the impact must be greater by taking into account the demand for carbon emitting transport once the flier reaches their destination and has to mobilise him/herself around said destination. I think it’s reached the stage where extensive air travel is seen as a right, a necessity or just an every day event. Is that progress? “I want to visit the pyramids”, “I want to trek through Peru”……I want I want. What does the earth need?

  3. whobiggs


    Did I miss something? They’re suggesting moving the pollution to a different area and that will help?

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Your name and email are required.