If the aviation industry were country, it would rank among the top 10 largest carbon dioxide (CO2) emitters in the world. Carbon emissions from aviation have increased by 70% since 2005, but given that demand for aviation services is growing rapidly in both rich and poor countries, it is estimated that by 2050 emissions will increase by 300% to 700%.
According to “The Conversation”, stopping this growth would be the first step towards a sustainable international travel system, but how do we do it?
Frequent flyer tax
It would be relatively easy to introduce the so-called frequent flyer tax, but that would mean the rich could still afford to fly, but the poor would not.
The majority of airline passengers are still relatively wealthy. Only 18% of the world’s population has traveled by air, and 3% of the population flies each year. It is about 230 million people, but in 2017, 4 billion passengers were carried by air. This means that the average flayer makes eight flights a year.
Air traffic control
Air traffic control would thus be a very effective alternative to a tax.
Each person could be granted an annual maximum number of kilometers flown. Such a restriction would cause people to refrain from flying and to consider more carefully the need for such a mode of transport at a given moment.
For example, in the first year, a person would be given 500 kilometers of flight, but in the second year, they would be a thousand. Every year, the figure would double, allowing a person to fly from Britain, for example, to Australia and back after seven years.
Purchasing any long-haul flight ticket would postpone the doubling of a passenger’s annual kilometer. The unused kilometers would not disappear, that is, each kilometer could be exchanged for money. Anyone who exceeds the mileage would, in turn, have to pay a penalty or be banned to fly for a while.
Travel should not be abandoned, however, as upgraded and expanded high-speed lines could be a good alternative to flying. In many cases, this type of travel could be as fast as traveling by plane. In addition, it would reduce carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere by 90%. Traveling on solar-powered trains like Australia is already a reality.
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Coupling the use of this type of trains with air traffic control could only address carbon dioxide emissions in the short term. People are accustomed to traveling around the world in relatively few hours at relatively low prices, so demand will not disappear anywhere. The question therefore arises: what could replace air traffic?
Most electric aircraft designs are still on the drawing board, but there are also ready-to-take electric airplanes.
The world’s first commercial electric airplane was launched in June 2019 in Paris. The aircraft is called “Alice” and has nine passenger seats. A single-charge airplane can fly 1040 kilometers at an altitude of 3000 meters at a speed of 440 kilometers per hour. Commercial airplanes are planned to start in 2022.
Normal fuel costs for a small aircraft are around $ 400 per 160 kilometers. Theoretically, the cost of Alice over the same distance would be $ 8. In addition, if the electricity used by the aircraft is generated from renewable sources, it will not release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Also, the amount of energy each aircraft battery can store is growing rapidly, and there are strategies to make electric aircraft more efficient.
Innovations in the coming decades could make electric aircraft a mass phenomenon, but alternatives to fossil-fueled aircraft already exist.
There is another option, but it will be hard for the reader to believe that anything like this could occur in the next 30 years. True, the materials needed to realize this option already exist. An orbital ring is a steel cable placed in orbit of the Earth, just above the atmosphere, 80 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. Rotating it would create a centrifugal force while the Earth’s gravitational force would pull it back. If the ring were rotating at the required speed, the two forces would balance each other, allowing the ring to rotate evenly – as without weight.
A “cuff” should be built around the cable to hold it in place with magnets. All of this structure would be attached to the ground by cables running the elevator, allowing people to get to the orbital ring in less than an hour. And it would go like a train at an unbelievable speed, allowing a person to get to the other side of the world in just 45 minutes.
While this option sounds unrealistic, today everything is possible, all you have to do is make radical decisions.