A new study indicates that the aviation industry is responsible for up to 2.5 percent of the world’s carbon emissions, which is higher than most individual countries. Researchers calculate that the industry will not be able to meet their 2020 goal of becoming essentially carbon neutral. Instead, they might be able to meet that goal by 2050, if they pull out all the stops.

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Researchers estimate that the global aviation industry creates somewhere between 2 and 2.5 percent of the world’s carbon emissions, and those figures are expected to increase substantially over the next few decades. In addition to carbon, planes also give off nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, and other toxins. Since airplane emissions take place in the upper troposphere, the negative effects are magnified.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has already set ambitious goals for the aviation to be carbon neutral by 2020. This new report explores some of the possible ways to meet those goals, including advancing fuel efficiency technology and looking to alternative sources of energy. Researchers concluded that those operational changes will not be enough, however. They recommend that market-based measures like emissions trading are necessary in order to make a real impact.

By creating a global emissions trading scheme that applies to all aviation on Earth, researchers project that the industry could attain carbon neutral growth by 2050. They actually believe that such emissions trading would create much greater emissions savings than any of the other methods (or combinations of methods) they studied.

Via The Centre for Air Transportation and the Environment

Images via Shutterstock and Kris Krüg.