Sustainable Community Action
Hot air balloon water reflection Quebec

Environmental impact[]

Like all human activities involving combustion, operating powered aircraft (from airliners to hot air balloons) releases greenhouse gases, soot, and other pollutants into the atmosphere. In addition, there are several types of environmental impact specific to aviation:

  • Most light piston aircraft burn avgas, which contains tetra-ethyl lead and can cause soil contamination at airports. Some lower-compression piston engines can operate on unleaded mogas (but only when it is not blended with ethanol), and turbine engines and diesel engines — neither of which requires lead — are appearing on some newer light aircraft.
  • Larger aircraft can release significant quantities of chemicals that interact with greenhouse gases at specific altitudes, particularly nitrogen compounds, which interacts with ozone, increasing ozone concentrations.
  • Aircraft operating at high altitudes emit aerosols and sometimes leave contrails, both of which can increase cirrus cloud formation — cloud cover may have increased by up to 0.2% since the birth of aviation.

Aviation and climate change[]

In many countries aviation is the fastest growing source of carbon emissions. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that by 2050 aviation will account for 4% of all CO2 released by human activity and to increase ozone concentration by 13% at typical jet cruise altitudes. According to the IPCC, all four types of emission combined will likely contribute to warmer surface temperatures through radiative forcing.


Global News 2009

  • “Vital that an agreement capping global aviation emissions is part of a Copenhagen deal." Committee on Climate Change, September 9 [1] "Developed countries will need to take the lead in making significant reductions in cutting aviation emissions, ensuring that these are no higher – and possibly lower – than 2005 levels in the period to 2050. An interim period where rising aviation emissions are offset by emissions reductions in other sectors would be feasible. Over time, however, aviation emissions growth will have to be constrained." topic

News UK

See separate article - Aviation UK news


  • AirportWatch umbrella movement of national environmental organisations and airport community groups

Random facts[]

  • Per person, Britons emit more from flying than any other people else on the planet (603kg per person per year, compared to 434kg for Irish and 275 kg for Americans) while in the UK aviation accounts for 13 per cent of the country's entire climate impact (Source: Green values: consumers and branding - TGI consultants; 13 per cent figure from Gillian Merron in answer to parliamentary question 26 April 2007.) - a figure that is growing fast. Source: Greenpeace, December 4 2008


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External links

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  1. Committee on Climate Change, September 9, 2009
  2. The White House, April 16, 2009