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As climate concerns threaten air travel, aviation industry banks on technology solutions

Dominic Gates, The Seattle Times on

Published in Science & Technology News

That's an appalling prospect to Shifley.

"After the summer we've had, of heat domes and hurricanes and floods and fires, it's unfathomable to me to be considering doubling" air traffic, she said.

Elsewhere, particularly in Europe, flying is already being curbed by government policy. France in April banned domestic flights between cities with a train connection of less than 2.5 hours. Various government agencies and organizations around Europe have imposed similar bans on short-haul flights for employee business travel.

At the Airbus sustainability summit, Andrew Murphy, aviation director at Transport & Environment, a nonprofit that campaigns for clean transportation, said planned expansion of airports in Europe should stop.

He called for mandates with strict timelines to spur the decarbonization of aviation.

"What would drive innovation and drive focus in the sector is if we were to say, by 2035, we will end the sale of jet aircraft for short-haul flights in Europe," Murphy said.

 

Ross Macfarlane, a vice president at both the Sierra Club and the Clean Energy Transition Institute, which seeks to cut carbon emissions out of the Pacific Northwest economy, said the U.S. needs to look at high-speed rail and other alternatives to flying.

He said the COVID-19 lockdown has demonstrated there are "ways to do business that are frankly more efficient than jumping on a plane at the drop of a hat."

Yet he acknowledges how critical aviation is to modern life and the global economy. "It's both unrealistic and not in society's interest to take a stance of simply advocating for aviation to go away. It's not going to happen," he said.

Science and uncertainty

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