photo by Todd Lappin (Telestar Logistics on Flickr Creative Commons)

Pipe dreams of a future of eco-friendly travel go up in smoke when you look at the projected numbers for air travel. In short, total emissions from flying are set to skyrocket.

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner is being touted as 20% more fuel efficient than its rivals, lighter and more durable due to it’s carbon fiber composite construction, with better air quality, more leg room, larger windows and a quieter, more comfortable ride. But according to a report by the Associated Press, Boeing says it will be in the air for another 50 years. That’s a long time, even if its fuel efficiency is further improved.

On the one hand, there is no question that individual flights are getting greener.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), aircraft today are about 65 per cent more fuel-efficient than they were in 1970, while the clean technology of modern engines has almost eliminated emissions of carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons.


On the other hand, questions about lower emissions per flight and per passenger of the Dreamliner and the massive Airbus A380 – the world’s largest passenger aircraft – are generally buried under the boyish, Top Gear-ish enthusiasm about shiny new flying machines. Furthermore, a 20% cut in emissions is dwarfed by a projected 100% increase in the total number of flights. The author of this informative article in the Daily Mail does seems to revel in the fact that nothing is being done to actually reduce overall air travel emissions:

It is, of course, intensely painful to the green brigade that a beautiful new airliner like the 787 should be coming out at all. And with newly prosperous China only now learning the art of holidaying abroad, it’s not surprising that Boeing forecast last week the number of planes run by world airlines will almost double over the next 20 years, from 18,890 in 2009 to 36,300 by 2029.

Awesome, dude. Caring about the future is lame.

The IATA aims to have a carbon-free aircraft in the sky by the year 2050.

For more on the possible future of green air travel see the following article in the Telegraph:

Boeing Dreamliner: the promise of greener flying

Additional resources:

Independent – Carbon airliner with a small footprint readied for take-off to Britain

Air travel and climate change – is it possible to fly Green?

About The Author: Graham Land

Greenfudge editor and London-based writer Graham Land grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC, where he was part of the local hardcore punk scene, playing in several bands. Through this musical movement he became involved in grass roots interests such as anti-racist activism, animal rights and Ecology. In 2000 he relocated to Europe, eventually earning an MA from Malmö University in Sweden. He has also lived in Japan, Ireland, Portugal and Greece.


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