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Fri, Aug 17, 2007

Some Say Aviation More Damaging To Environment Than First Thought

Measuring Aviation's Effect On Climate "Complicated"

Some experts now say aviation is possibly a bit more dangerous to the environment than widely thought... not only due to carbon dioxide emissions, but also to the other gases emitted as well. The experts believe these gases warm the earth.

"Growth is going to continue, but it is complicated to estimate the effect of aviation on the climate," said Ivar Isaksen, a professor at Oslo University. He is also an expert in aviation effects on the atmosphere, according to Reuters.

Isaksen contends the impact of aviation on the environment goes far beyond carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, which is what governments use for calculations.

Reuters reports the problem with aviation emissions may be amplified by such things as nitrogen oxides that trap heat and are more damaging at high altitudes. Then there's cirrus clouds that usually warms the Earth's surface. Jet condensation trails could possibly be helping to form a literal blanket of cirrus clouds at high altitudes. 

UN studies have pointed out that aviation is responsible for roughly two percent of the world's carbon dioxide emissions and annual passenger growth of five percent will surpass any efficiency gains from better aircraft design or fuel.

"The science around this isn't very clear," said CarbonNeutral spokesperson Sarah Brown. CarbonNeutral is an offset company that lets interested travelers invest in renewable energy projects designed to absorb aviation emissions.

Another UN report completed in May by its climate panel said including the aviation industry in a greenhouse gas trading scheme as well as extra fuel charges "would have the potential to reduce emissions considerably," Reuters reported.

"A first possible approach is where initially only carbon dioxide from aviation is included in for example an emission trading system," the report said.

"We're trying to estimate the overall effect," said Robert Muller at Germany's Atmosfair, a company that allows people to pay for the greenhouse gases they are responsible for. The money is then invested in climate protection projects.

CarbonNeutral estimates each passenger flying from Sydney to London is responsible for a little more than two tons of greenhouse gases, at a cost of about S28 to offset.



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