In the United States, there are now regulations to reduce carbon pollution from cars. But airplanes, which produce more than ten percent of U.S. transportation emissions, have been flying under the radar. That’s about to change.

Airplane taking off at airport

This past June, the EPA found that the greenhouse gases emitted by planes pose a threat to human health by contributing to global warming. The ruling paves the way for federal aviation emission standards.

The industry is already exploring ways to use biofuels and make lighter engines. But Benjamin Longstreth of the non-profit Natural Resources Defense Council, says more action is needed now.

Longstreth: “One of the things that we believe is particularly important is that we look not just at the next generation of planes but we also look at all the things that can be done to improve the efficiency of existing planes.”

For example, Longstreth says airlines have retrofitted some old planes and bought new ones with “winglets” – arrow-shaped tips on a plane’s wings that reduce drag and save fuel.

The prospect of new federal regulations could also incentivize airlines to implement such solutions early, and help drive innovation to make flying in the future more sustainable.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo: Copyright protected.

More Resources
5 Technologies That Could Help Curb Airplane Emissions
EPA Takes First Steps to Address Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Aircraft
Air Transport Action Group Facts and Figures
Natural Resources Defense Council Airline Scorecard: First-ever Ranking of Airline Biofuel Use

Bruce Lieberman, a long-time journalist, has covered climate change science, policy, and politics for nearly two decades. A newspaper reporter for 20 years, Bruce worked for The San Diego Union-Tribune...