SEATTLE – Greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft engines endanger public health and welfare, according to new findings from the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The “endangerment finding” report documented the magnitude of a problem that environmentalists have been urging the agency to tackle for almost a decade.
Vera Pardee, senior counsel with the Center for Biological Diversity, said under the Clean Air Act, the agency is now required to act.
“EPA must set emission standards to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are produced by the thousands of aircraft crossing our skies every day,” Pardee said.
The EPA’s study said U.S. aircraft are responsible for almost 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from all aircraft globally. Aviation is big business in the Evergreen state. Seattle is home to Boeing, one of the largest aircraft manufacturers in the world.
If commercial aviation was a country, it would rank seventh in the world for carbon emissions. Pardee cited a recent Center for Biological Diversity report which found that if nothing is done, aircraft will generate 43 gigatonnes of planet-warming pollution by 2050.
“And that number alone would put us far above what we can handle as far as not exceeding the temperature threshold that allows us to continue to live on this planet as we would like,” Pardee said.
Earlier this year, the International Civil Aviation Organization recommended standards for carbon pollution from aircraft, but Pardee said they fall far short of what could be done.
She said technology, either in development or currently in use, could cut the fuel burned by new aircraft engines by 25 percent by 2024.
“So just eight years from now, we could get a quarter of these emissions reduced,” Pardee said. “So, we hope that EPA will propose standards that are meaningful and reduce the problem that they have just identified.”
Another recent report, from the International Council on Clean Transportation, said some of the top 20 transatlantic air carriers could cut emissions in half with existing technology and operational improvements.
Eric Tegethoff is a journalist covering the Northwest. Eric has worked as a reporter for KBOO, XRAY FM, and Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland, Oregon, as well as other print and digital news media. In 2012, Eric traveled to North Dakota to write about the Bakken region oil boom. He's also worked at a movie theater, as a campaign canvasser and quality assurance at a milk packaging factory. Eric is originally from Orlando, Florida. He graduated from the University of Florida in 2010.