On June 18 Climate Science Watch published a white paper report criticizing the administration’s failure to address aviation’s contribution to global warming in the federal multiagency NextGen aviation planning and development program. The report highlights the administration’s inattention to quantifying greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft in strategic planning for the development of the industry, and cautions that this omission could have harmful effects on the future of U.S. aviation if action is not taken. See Details to view or download the report.
The CSW report is titled NextGen Air Transportation System Progress Reports Ignore Climate Change. It can be viewed here.
The report can also be viewed, along with a Government Accountability Project press release, at the GAP web site.
The Bush administration and FAA are currently focusing on a multi-agency effort to enable a major expansion of American air transportation. This effort – the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) – operates under the assumption that the U.S. aviation traffic will triple in the next 20 years. NextGen progress reports make no mention of climate change, global warming, or the carbon dioxide emissions of aircraft.
Currently, aviation accounts for 2-3 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions. This percentage, already significant, is likely to increase substantially as flight numbers rise and emission curbing policies are instituted in other sectors of the economy.
Continuing to ignore these issues could jeopardize the future of American aviation while allowing air travel to have an increasingly harmful effect on the environment. Future global warming emissions reduction policy could place limits on aviation. Federal NextGen planning should be focusing now on systematically reducing greenhouse gas emissions in order to position U.S aviation to meet such requirements.
The European Union has taken the lead in addressing effects of aviation on climate change. The European Commission is currently considering a continent-wide plan to allocate carbon based on aircraft weight and travel distance. European aircraft manufacturers, notably Airbus, have committed to significant reductions in energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. The NextGen participating agencies, on the other hand, have failed to address the importance of climate change and emissions in federal aviation planning reports
The Bush administration is again trying to sweep climate change realities under the rug. CSW’s report explains that ignoring climate change in aviation policy is detrimental to both the economy and the environment, as the aviation industry may not be able to meet future emission reductions requirements without significant impacts on air travel if policymakers don’t deal with the problem proactively.
The report recommends that:
NextGen leadership be immediately directed to address global warming as a considering factor in aviation strategic planning and development.
Congress include a focus on aviation and climate change in its oversight activity and NextGen funding decisions, and consider how aviation emissions can most appropriately be incorporated into legislation under consideration for mitigating the global warming problem.
NextGen’s planning and development process be made more transparent, and broadened to include advisory representatives of stakeholder interests in addition to those of the airline and aircraft manufacturing industries, including scientists and environmental and other public interest representatives.
The news media look into this problem and question administration officials, in particular the head of the Federal Aviation Administration, the leaders of NextGen, and those responsible for the environmental aspects of NextGen planning.