IPCC report has massive implications for aviation and travel and there are potential ‘catastrophic’ outcomes for the planet

21 September, 2021

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was created to provide policymakers with regular scientific assessments on climate change, its implications and potential future risks, as well as to put forward adaptation and mitigation options.

The United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change is therefore a respected authority on the subject so its recent report which analysed over 14,000 academic papers to get the most comprehensive picture on climate change, is being taken very seriously.

The new report shows that the greenhouse gasses released by human activities already have resulted in 1.1C of warming since 1900. And over the next 20 years, global temperatures are expected to surge past 1.5C of warming in every likely mitigation scenario.

Scientists are observing changes in the Earth’s climate in every region and across the whole climate system, confirms the report with many of the changes observed in the climate described as “unprecedented in thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years”. Some of the changes already set in motion—such as continued sea level rise— it describes as “irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years”.

However, strong and sustained reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases “would limit climate change,” acknowledges the report. But, while benefits for air quality would come quickly – as demonstrated during the height of COVID-19 restrictions across the world – it could take 20-30 years to see global temperatures stabilise, according to the IPCC Working Group I report, Climate Change 2021: the Physical Science Basis, released in Aug-2021.

In a recent op-ed, Kit Brennan, co-founder of carbon emissions calculator start-up, Thrust Carbon, wrote that exceeding the 1.5C threshold will be “catastrophic” and travel landscape will literally change. “It is now almost certain that many places in the world will be underwater before 2050…We expect nations to increase implementation speed and cost of carbon taxes. This will lead to vastly increased airfares and the end of the ‘low-cost’ travel boom seen in much of the world,” he said.

In latest edition of Travel Tech Corner during the Sep-2021 edition of CAPA Live resident guru Johnny Thorsen talked to Mr Brennan to learn more on what the IPCC report warns and the implications for travel.

Speaking during the CAPA Live session Mr Brennan identified that one of the hardest aspects of sustainable travel Is “accurately calculating what your footprint is” noting that this can differ significantly from airline to airline on individual routes and then even by the aircraft deployed on a specific flight. “What we need to do is apply better data and more data sources,” he explained.

“The most sustainable airlines want the most accurate calculations, because you don’t want the average to apply to you if you are a sustainable airline,” acknowledged Mr Brennan, who noted that it could prove “painful” for slower airlines on the sustainability journey. “I think some airlines still haven’t woken up to the fact that sustainability is here to stay,” he added.

Also, during the special environmental edition of CAPA Live, CAPA - Centre for Aviation EMEA content editor Richard Maslen and IATA SVP sustainability & environment Sebastian Mikosz discussed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the climate, the role of sustainable aviation fuel and carbon offsetting in addressing building emissions in the atmosphere and the effectiveness of taxation as a governmental response to global environmental issues.

Mr Mikosz stated “not flying is not the solution to the climate problem and the global pandemic cannot be a solution to environmental problems", adding "Over the last 15 or so months our economic activity was severely down and our gas emissions were only down by 7%, so even if you stop the whole economy it still doesn't solve the problem. The enemy here is not travel or airlines, the enemy is CO2 emissions".

According to a 2017 study conducted by researchers at the Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies in Sweden the three personal choices we can make to cut greenhouse gas emissions are: reducing air travel, reducing car travel or reducing meat consumption.

The aviation industry is taking this seriously. The importance in the aviation industry’s global goals to address its climate impact has seen IATA create Mr Mikosz’s position, a new role that gives greater prominence to the existential challenge of decarbonising air transport.

Click on this link, or the image above, to watch a CAPA TV recording of the CAPA Live interview.