Washington Post coverage of aviation and global warming should look at federal NextGen program

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On July 28 the Washington Post business section featured a page one article on the issue of greenhouse gas emissions from aviation and how U.S. airlines and aircraft manufacturers are finally being drawn into the debate on global warming policy. Future coverage of this issue in the Post should deal with how the Bush administration has been sweeping the global warming problem under the rug in the federal government’s NextGen planning and development program for enabling a major expansion of U.S. aviation. A Climate Science Watch report released on July 18 offers a critical analysis of the NextGen situation.

The Washington Post reported:

U.S. Airlines Under Pressure To Fly Greener
Carriers Already Trying to Save Fuel as Europe Proposes Plan

By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 28, 2007; D01

Airlines and airplane makers have largely slipped under the radar in the debate over global warming.

But a dispute over a European emissions-trading proposal has caught many carriers and their trade groups by surprise, spurring them to launch a public relations blitz highlighting their green bona fides, even if most of their work has been aimed at boosting their bottom lines….

Industry officials are quick to point out that commercial aviation contributes a very small percentage of the greenhouse gas and particle emissions that scientists blame for global warming. But they also acknowledge that aviation’s impact could surge if the industry continues its worldwide growth spurt….

Aviation’s expansion has led to political problems for the industry in Europe, where there is increasing pressure to cut back on air travel, reduce airport expansion and increase taxes on tickets….

“The emissions issue is real,” said Marion C. Blakey, the FAA’s administrator. “But we want to move forward on a global basis. To this point, the Europeans have shown no flexibility.”…

See our July 18 post—“Climate Science Watch report: Federal NextGen aviation planning is ignoring global warming”

On July 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—NextGen Air Transportation System Progress Reports Ignore Climate Change—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.

Under the Bush administration the Federal Aviation Administration is leading a multi-agency planning and development program to enable a major expansion of American air transportation. This effort – the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) – operates under the assumption that U.S. aviation traffic will as much as triple in the next 20 years. NextGen progress reports make no mention of climate change, global warming, or the carbon dioxide emissions of aircraft….

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.

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