What is the impact of flying?
Like many forms of transport, aviation contributes to climate change through its emissions. Aviation’s main emissions are carbon dioxide (CO2), water vapour (H2O), and nitrogen oxide (NOX).
But how much? The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is considered the foremost authority on climate change, and brings together hundreds of the world’s leading scientists.
The IPCC states that aviation contributes 2% of the world's CO2 emissions. It’s not as much as other causes of climate change, such as power generation and car emissions, but we are working to limit this as much as possible.
The IPCC forecasts that this figure could rise to 3% by 2050. This is still a lot of CO2 and we are committed to reducing our contribution. Find out exactly what we are doing. There are other non-CO2 effects associated with flying that may also cause global warming.
These include NOX emissions and so-called “contrails” – the visible trail of water vapour sometimes left by planes as they fly. NOX has both indirect warming and cooling effects while contrails may trigger the formation of clouds. At the moment, no-one is entirely certain to what extent NOX, contrails and related clouds cause global warming. Clearly a better understanding is needed before formulating appropriate responses.
Want more information? The IPCC has produced a special report on aviation and climate change.