A cheerful cover about a really serious climate change report by an airline

Cathay Pacific isn’t the only airline seized by the need to reduce fossil sourced carbon emissions, but its  2014 Sustainable Development Report may be the most lucid and honest account of what a major airline is doing, and how, overall, it may yet fail.

Such accountability is also spreading within the airline business. However it is at its most impressive in this second link found within the main link on the Cathay Pacific report quoted above.

This is the link that goes to the nitty gritty of the fossil sourced carbon challenge, for all industrial oil and coal burning activities on the planet, not just airlines.

Qualification: This is a defeat projected by growth estimates despite efficiency technology adoption including bio-fuel blends, as currently realistically envisaged.

On present knowledge and practice and outlooks, absolute fossil sourced carbon emissions will outstrip the improvements being made in carbon reduction.

By 2050, on current trends, fossil sourced carbon emissions of global aviation might account for three percent of such anthropogenic outputs compared to two percent today.  And overall, those emissions will be much higher than they are today, which is why new non-fossil carbon releasing sources of energy, including zero fossil carbon releasing fuels are vital.

A much more optimistic outcome even with the projected growth levels that are being achieved by the dominant Hong Kong airline in the midst of the rise of Asian economies may eventuate because of innovative breakthroughs in fuels, engines and airframes.

And of course, the better implementation of global carbon price trading schemes and the like, which Cathay Pacific unreservedly supports, will destroy the viability of coal and oil burning power plant renewals if they sufficiently reward  alternative solar, algal, new nuclear, and other renewable initiatives.

The situation isn’t hopeless by any means, but it is tough.

The Cathay Pacific report claims that carbon reduction improvements since 1998, measured by revenue tonne kilometres had reduced harmful emissions per flight by 22.8 percent.  But the world flies more, and ships more, and drives more.

The report also uses lower estimates for various improvements in emission reduction efficiencies than have been bandied about in other places.  This goes to the integrity of the detailed sections of the main report, and readers are urged to study them, in this time poor, gimme a slogan or two, impoverished and facile media landscape.

As we fly more, the spend on vital research and innovation projects rises. It’s not an altruistic exercise by the aircraft and engine makers either. It’s all about the medium term sustainability of the airline sector , and it requires breakthroughs as well as better practices in the interim.

The airlines, like Cathay Pacific, reward the makers of jets that save on fuel and maintenance.  If they were taxed or sanctioned into contraction, there would be no investment in the technologies and practices that will make air travel sustainable.  The entire industry would be smaller, costlier, and dirtier, and making no contribution to the ultimate breaking of the destructive fossil carbon releasing cycle.

This report (in its detailed sections) is an important contribution to serious consideration of the needs for energy and transport technology breakthroughs.

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