|Aviation and the Global Atmosphere|
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This report assesses the effects of aircraft on climate and atmospheric ozone and is the first IPCC report for a specific industrial subsector. It was prepared by IPCC in collaboration with the Scientific Assessment Panel to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, in response to a request by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) 1 because of the potential impact of aviation emissions. These are the predominant anthropogenic emissions deposited directly into the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere.
Aviation has experienced rapid expansion as the world economy has grown. Passenger traffic (expressed as revenue passenger-kilometers 2 ) has grown since 1960 at nearly 9% per year, 2.4 times the average Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate. Freight traffic, approximately 80% of which is carried by passenger airplanes, has also grown over the same time period. The rate of growth of passenger traffic has slowed to about 5% in 1997 as the industry is maturing. Total aviation emissions have increased, because increased demand for air transport has outpaced the reductions in specific emissions 3 from the continuing improvements in technology and operational procedures. Passenger traffic, assuming unconstrained demand, is projected to grow at rates in excess of GDP for the period assessed in this report.
The effects of current aviation and of a range of unconstrained growth projections for aviation (which include passenger, freight, and military) are examined in this report, including the possible effects of a fleet of second generation, commercial supersonic aircraft. The report also describes current aircraft technology, operating procedures, and options for mitigating aviation's future impact on the global atmosphere. The report does not consider the local environmental effects of aircraft engine emissions or any of the indirect environmental effects of aviation operations such as energy usage by ground transportation at airports.
Aircraft emit gases and particles directly into the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere where they have an impact on atmospheric composition. These gases and particles alter the concentration of atmospheric greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide CO2), ozone (O3), and methane (CH4); trigger formation of condensation trails (contrails); and may increase cirrus cloudiness-all of which contribute to climate change (see Box 1).
The principal emissions of aircraft include the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and water vapor (H2O). Other major emissions are nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) (which together are termed NOx), sulfur oxides (SOxO), and soot. The total amount of aviation fuel burned, as well as the total emissions of carbon dioxide, NOx, and water vapor by aircraft, are well known relative to other parameters important to this assessment. The climate impacts of the gases and particles emitted and formed as a result of aviation are more difficult to quantify than the emissions; however, they can be compared to each other and to climate effects from other sectors by using the concept of radiative forcing. 4 Because carbon dioxide has a long atmospheric residence time (ª100 years) and so becomes well mixed throughout the atmosphere, the effects of its emissions from aircraft are indistinguishable from the same quantity of carbon dioxide emitted by any other source. The other gases (e.g., NOx, SOxO, water vapor) and particles have shorter atmospheric residence times and remain concentrated near flight routes, mainly in the northern mid-latitudes. These emissions can lead to radiative forcing that is regionally located near the flight routes for some components (e.g., ozone and contrails) in contrast to emissions that are globally mixed (e.g., carbon dioxide and methane).
The global mean climate change is reasonably well represented by the global average radiative forcing, for example, when evaluating the contributions of aviation to the rise in globally averaged temperature or sea level. However, because some of aviation's key contributions to radiative forcing are located mainly in the northern mid-latitudes, the regional climate response may differ from that derived from a global mean radiative forcing. The impact of aircraft on regional climate could be important, but has not been assessed in this report.
Ozone is a greenhouse gas. It also shields the surface of the earth from harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation, and is a common air pollutant. Aircraft-emitted NOx participates in ozone chemistry. Subsonic aircraft fly in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere (at altitudes of about 9 to 13 km), whereas supersonic aircraft cruise several kilometers higher (at about 17 to 20 km) in the stratosphere. Ozone in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere is expected to increase in response to NOx increases and methane is expected to decrease. At higher altitudes, increases in NOx lead to decreases in the stratospheric ozone layer. Ozone precursor (NOx) residence times in these regions increase with altitude, and hence perturbations to ozone by aircraft depend on the altitude of NOx injection and vary from regional in scale in the troposphere to global in scale in the stratosphere.
Water vapor, SOxO (which forms sulfate particles), and soot 5 play both direct and indirect roles in climate change and ozone chemistry.
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