We don’t need to stop flying to avoid global warming, says expert

Hydrogen planes are one of the solutions the aviation industry can adopt to avoid the worst of global warming without giving up air travel, an expert has said.

Aviation is responsible for approximately 2.4% of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide. Taking into account other gases and water vapor trails left by planes, industry is responsible for around 5% of global warming, the BBC reported.

According to estimates by Dan Rutherford, director of navigation and aviation at the American non-profit organization International Council on Clean Transportation, only 3% of the world’s population takes scheduled flights. However, if everyone around the world took just one long-haul flight a year, airplane emissions would exceed all of the United States’ carbon dioxide emissions, the ICCT said.

The introduction of hydrogen-powered planes is a way for the aviation industry to avoid causing further damage to the environment, by giving people who regularly take vacations abroad or travel on business, l chance to travel guilt-free.

Although the interior of a hydrogen plane resembles the one we use today, the plane is different, Professor Pericles Pilidis of Cranfield University’s Center for Propulsion Engineering told the Guardian. Planes using hydrocarbons produce carbon dioxide when they burn, while those using hydrogen only produce water, Pilidis said.

With hydrogen aircraft, countries can reap the global benefits of aviation. However, introducing them will take time and a lot of investment.

“Hydrogen costs three to four times the price of conventional fuels. Also, airports will have to change, as transporting hydrogen is not easy, and aircraft design will also change,” Pilidis told the Guardian.

At present, the global aviation industry also has no rules regarding safety qualifications for such planes, which need to be developed, the expert said. To make hydrogen planes safe for travelers would take the industry at least 10 years and “a lot of money”, Pilidis added.

Aircraft manufacturer Airbus plans to introduce hydrogen-powered passenger planes by 2035. The company plans to make a turbofan-powered single-aisle plane and a turboprop-powered transport plane.

(Edited by : Sudarsanan Mani)

Teresa H. Sadler