A future for flying, or just hot air?

Aviation’s contribution to global energy-related emissions is expected to lift from about 2% today to 4% by 2030

Feb 9, 2024

While there are some viable options on the runway – alternative travel by land, sea or online, emerging aircraft technologies and new fuels – solving aviation emissions is likely to require long haul effort at scale to counter the expected surge in aviation demand.

Key takeaways

  • Sadly, those holding out hope for electrified long-haul flights will need to pair that with a healthy dose of reality. Electric-powered flight is unlikely to be an alternative any time soon. The main reason, says Merkert, is a mundane one: Those batteries are very heavy;
  • While battery-powered flights might be a long shot for interstate or international trips, there is some hope in sustainable aviation fuels made from non-fossil fuel feedstocks – food and organic wastes, agricultural or forestry residues, biomass and other sources;
  • Businesses and individuals can already choose to stay grounded. But the flight path to net zero will also require restraints and incentives to curb frequent flying, along with policies to increase the production of sustainable fuels, as these are the two most promising options.

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