The importance of climate-optimised aircraft trajectories in sustainable development

This week the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Sixth Assessment Report was published. It provides detailed insights about the impacts of climate change on the world.

According to this report, the damage caused by global warming so far is substantial and there will be unavoidable climate hazards over the next years. Some of them will directly impact the aviation field: “Many airports […] are in the low elevation coastal zone making them especially vulnerable to flooding and sea level rise. Under a 2ºC [rise] scenario the number of airports at risk of storm surge flooding increases from 269 to 338 or as many as 572 in a Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 8.5 scenario; these airports are disproportionately busy and account for up to 20% of the world’s passenger routes” (Yesudian and Dawson, 11 2021).

Air traffic is responsible for 2% of global CO2 emissions, making aircraft the most polluting mode of transport on the planet and, as the IPCC report shows, very vulnerable to the consequences of climate change. This is why taking immediate steps towards reducing the impact of this sector on our climate is becoming increasingly urgent.

For this, optimising aircraft trajectories based on climate impact is key. The FlyATM4E project will provide a series of tools to improve the decision-making in air traffic management with respect to minimizing climate impact. These tools incorporate CO2 and non-CO2 effects of air traffic, such as contrails and contrail-cirrus, water vapour, NOx and particulate emissions, into atmospheric models to identify situations where there is a large potential to reduce the climate impact.

The FlyATM4E project will formulate recommendations on how to implement these strategies in meteorological products and enable not only the understanding of ATM possibilities to reduce aviation’s climate impact, but moreover how to implement such eco-efficient routing. 

Today, on World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development, we want to join the awareness actions and claim the importance of research to achieve, in particular, one of the Sustainable Development Goals goal: climate action.


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