1. Increase fuel efficiency
Better fuel efficiency is a first step to reduce the carbon footprint of air travel. Increased fuel efficiency could cut the carbon footprint of airlines by up to 2.5% each year. Airlines can do this by replacing older planes with more fuel-efficient models, carrying more passengers or cargo per flight, and using technology to avoid airports with high traffic.
While it is essential to cut emissions more deeply than this, strengthening efficiency standards and funding new efficient technologies are a great starting point. The US Congress should help by strengthening efficiency standards and funding new efficient technologies.
2. Shift to other forms of transportation
Let’s face it: An individual’s choice to fly is one of the most carbon-intensive choices one can make. Choosing to take a train or a bus instead can do the planet a huge favor and lessen the impact of your travel. Our local, state, and federal governments can make this decision even easier through investment in these alternative forms of public transportation.
Imagine how a modernized, high-speed US train system could make life easier for us and the climate!
3. Develop electric planes & less harmful jet fuels
There are a lot of technological advances happening in air travel, but innovations like electric planes are still a decade or more away. Congressional support for research could speed up this timeline, but until long-distance electric planes are developed, many flights will rely on liquid fuels — which have a higher energy density than batteries.
Changing the makeup of jet fuel can reduce emissions. Most promising are “power-to-liquid” fuels, which can be made with only water, carbon dioxide, and 100% renewable electricity!
4. Remove carbon from the atmosphere
For the aviation industry to truly be a partner in the global effort to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, they should support natural ecosystem restoration to help compensate for any residual emissions in the atmosphere.
Restoration of ecosystems such as mangroves, tropical forests, and seagrass meadows can store sizable amounts of carbon at a large scale. In tandem with other forms of emission reductions from the aviation industry, these nature-based solutions to the climate crisis can help us to avoid dangerous climate impacts.