Linnaeus University, March 16, 2021

The ongoing pandemic can be an opportunity for the aviation industry to make a transition, by gradually exchanging fossil fuels for synthetic fuels. This is shown by Stefan Gössling, professor of tourism studies at Linnaeus University, through models for future passenger air travel 2022–2050.
“Making these changes in the avian industry would greatly benefit the climate. What is needed is massive political effort to make it possible”, says Gössling.

Covid-19 has led to a dramatic decrease in passenger air travel, which has also resulted in a decrease in carbon dioxide emissions. The reduced demand for passenger air travel brings with it an opportunity for the aviation industry to make a transition, according to the researchers who have looked at different models for what such a transition may look like.

By using data from, for instance, the UN agency ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization), the researchers have created a model of the aviation industry where the transition is based on a gradual exchange of fossil fuels for synthetic fuels; fuel that is not produced from crude oil.

They have studied what a transition would involve for the aviation industry of the future, what demand will look like in the next thirty years, and how large the emissions will be depending on how quickly the aviation industry makes the transition to carbon-neutral aviation fuel.

The result shows that making this transition is actually possible for the aviation industry. However, a lot of land area would be required to produce synthetic aviation fuel from, for instance, solar cells.

The result also shows that the demand for passenger air travel will continue to increase in the future, even if this increase will be slower, partly due to an increase in ticket fares – estimated to be approximately 35 percent more expensive in the future.

“It is necessary that the aviation industry makes this transition, in order to reduce emissions and to slow down climate change. It is also required in order to meet the goals that many of the world’s countries have set for the future – to be carbon neutral”, Stefan Gössling concludes.

More information

Read the full article in the journal Environmental Research Letters:

COVID-19 and pathways to low-carbon air transport until 2050


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