Causes And Effects Of Air Pollution

2394 words - 10 pages

Historically, aviation is often regarded as one of the weakest sources of carbon emissions. When the Wright Brothers took to the skies for the first in time in 1903, he traveled 120 feet in a few seconds. They developed their own wing, propeller, and engine (nps.gov). Gasoline engines, though far from efficient, were also far from common. When the Wright Brothers designed their engine, their thoughts were not on the environment or the emissions of the engine, but rather the efficiency and weight. That was 111 years ago and since then, combustion engines have taken over the world. They’re everywhere and power almost anything, from lawnmowers to eight hundred passenger planes. Jetliners, ranging from single propeller to eight engines, crisscross the sky at over 500mph, connecting thousands of people thousands of miles apart. But as we begin to depend heavily on air transportation, demand has skyrocketed and passenger volume is expected to rise by about 32% (or 930 million passengers) by 2017 (IATA Airlines…).While the increase in demand promotes economic growth by providing jobs and expediting the transportation of goods, how will the increase in passenger and cargo volume affect carbon emissions and ultimately the environment?
In 2011, the United States released six billion seven hundred and two million tons of greenhouse gases (EPA) and the IATA states that as low as 2% of global human made CO2 emissions come from aviation (IATA Environment) and about 20% from the transportation sector (EPA). This amounts to only 134 million tons of greenhouse gases, a rather insignificant number compared to over 2.21 billion tons produced solely from electricity, which accounts for a third of US greenhouse gas emissions (EPA). Globally, flights produce approximately 628 million tons of CO2 per year (Cleansky), which is as much or more than the chemical, iron and steel, and cement-manufacturing subsectors (US GAO 11).
Cars and power plants generally release all their greenhouse gases and particles at ground level, where they tend to hover, causing smog, before slowly drifting into the atmosphere. However, airplanes burn fuel and release environmentally damaging particles directly into the upper troposphere (US GAO 11). Carbon dioxide is the foregone greenhouse gas, but due to the rate airplanes burn gas, incomplete combustion results and releases nitrogen oxide (NOx), soot, sulfate, and water vapor into the sky (US GAO 11). The combustion of one kilogram of fuel yields approximately 3.15kg of CO2, over three times the mass of fuel burned (ClimateCare). Nitrogen oxide emissions, which increase ozone levels, are expected to rise 13% from 1992 to 2050 (IPCC Aciation). Due to winds at high altitudes, gas particles will be distributed relatively evenly over the entirety of Earth; high altitude emissions are unlikely to be concentrated in one particular area. According to a study by Dr. Christian N. Jardine at Oxford University Centre for the Environment, the effects...

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