Air Transport GHG Emissions

Barbara Falby, a member of the 4RG Steering Committee, attended a panel discussion sponsored by the TransformTO initiative on Transportation and Climate Change.  In the question period that followed she inquired why the panel had not referred to aviation CO2 emissions. The response:  previous research showed that aviation emissions were too low to be of concern.

This response must be reconciled within the larger context of air transport.  A study by the David Suzuki Foundation reports:

 “Although aviation is a relatively small industry, it has a disproportionately large impact on the climate system. It accounts for four to nine per cent of the total climate change impact of human activity.”

Clearly the research referred to by the panelist reviewed only a very small part of aviation emissions, presumably accounting only for those emissions immediately connected with “on the ground activities” of planes using the two main Toronto area airports:  Pearson International and Toronto Island Airport.  Planes taking off and landing burn fuel at a higher rate than during the rest of the flight.

Still we contend that the larger problem of aviation emissions should not be ignored.  Currently (2015) world aviation emissions are greater than emissions from Germany.

The aviation industry has promised to reduce emissions. Yet the industry is marketing air travel aggressively – and successfully.  So the reduction in emissions will be relatively small, and then only well in the future.

The situation with air transport and airports has a parallel with the fossil fuel industry and its need for pipeline infrastructure.  Considering the need for the phasing out of fossil fuels, there should be a moratorium on the construction of pipelines.

Use of air transport, both passengers and freight, must be curtailed.  Expansion of air ports will encourage the opposite result. The vision for Toronto must be an example to other cities, and thus contribute to the reduction of emissions from this industry sector.

As the Federal Minister of Transport said when requiring renegotiation of an agreement regarding expansion of the Island Airport: “. . .  [this] is a quality of life issue.”

Toronto must hold the line against air port expansion.   That means “No” to longer runways at Toronto Island Airport to accommodate larger jets.



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