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Aviation – the transport mode most targeted to wreck the climate

Aviation – the transport mode most targeted to wreck the climate.

That characterization is somewhat imprecise and demands at least a brief elaboration. Aviation epitomizes climate destruction because:

1. It will likely be the last transport mode (or one of the last) that can be made carbon-neutral at scale. If humans still want to fly in large numbers by the year 2050, they will probably still be burning fossil fuels to do it.

1.a. Airliners are durable, often lasting 30 or 40 years. Airlines which purchase airliners today expect to fly them for decades, burning the same fuels they burn now.

2. Airliners travel at such high speeds that they allow an individual to emit greenhouse gases in a few hours in amounts comparable to the emissions resulting from heating a home for an entire winter, commuting to work by automobile for half the year, or eating a modern diet for a year.

2.a. An individual passenger's share of emissions from a single long return flight can easily exceed two tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, a whole year's total individual emissions allowance under an equitable solution to climate change. (Where "solution" means giving a 50% chance of holding warming to 2°C above the pre-industrial average, which is probably at the outer limits of acceptable risk, thus implying that the individual emissions allowance might well need to be lower than two tonnes.)

2.b. People who fly a lot have among the highest individual carbon footprints. That is, hypermobile frequent fliers make among the largest individual contributions to climate destruction. By analogy, they are like the southern US plantation owners (e.g., George Washington, Thomas Jefferson) who once made the largest individual contributions to causing the slavery problem.
How does this matter? The nations of the world (represented by their hypermobile diplomats) nominally committed to an equitable solution to climate change by signing the Copenhagen Accord in 2009:

"We agree that deep cuts in global emissions are required according to science, and as documented by the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report with a view to reduce global emissions so as to hold the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius, and take action to meet this objective consistent with science and on the basis of equity.

We can't be sure what the diplomats really meant by the word "equity" but one straightforward interpretation is to pick a total amount of greenhouse gases we think we can safely emit, and divide the total allowance equally among every person on the planet.
A solution that permits some people to emit many times more than others (while consuming the correspondingly greater personal benefits) can only be "equitable" under Orwellian Newspeak. Given that air travel is one of the least equitable sources of greenhouse gas emissions, it has no place in a climate-mitigated world until someone finds a way to fuel it without adding greenhouse gases to the air.