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The climate is affected by aviation through several mechanisms in addition to CO2 emissions. The formation of contrails is estimated to have caused a larger contribution to the sector’s climate warming than that from CO2. Photo: WIlliam Hook, Unsplash

The climate is affected by aviation through several mechanisms in addition to CO2 emissions. The formation of contrails is estimated to have caused a larger contribution to the sector’s climate warming than that from CO2. Photo: WIlliam Hook, Unsplash

AVIATE: How can aviation contribute to a low-carbon society?

The AVIATE (Aviation in a low-carbon society) project will provide better understanding of the climate impact of aviation, both for Norway and globally, and explore options for reducing that impact.

Aviation today makes up 2.6% of global CO2 emissions, but the emissions are expected to grow. Such growth is generally inconsistent with the steep emissions cuts needed to reach Paris Agreement’s 1.5 or 2 °C temperature goal. For the aviation sector to play its part in achieving a low-carbon society, research is needed to identify effective and realistic options to reduce the climate impact. So far it has been difficult to reduce aviation emissions because of the significant international competition in the business, the lack of effective international policies, and opposition from both the public and the industry itself. In AVIATE we will explore what drives future demand for aviation transport and analyse attitudes to a range of policies that can reduce the climate impact. We will also explore what motivates the aviation industry and governments to find and implement new solutions, and how more effective governance of the industry can emerge.

The climate is affected by aviation through several mechanisms in addition to CO2 emissions. The formation of contrails is estimated to have caused a larger contribution to the sector’s climate warming than that from CO2. It is therefore essential to account for these additional effects to assess the total climate impact of aviation, and to understand the effectiveness of options to reduce that impact. Our project will provide the first ever estimates of the climate impact of contrails induced from flights in Norway. We will engage a large number of people in a citizen-science project to collect data for this purpose.

Moreover, the aviation sector has been poorly represented in global emission scenarios, meaning that aviation is not well accounted for in 1.5 °C and 2 °C scenarios. Based on our policy and climate impact results we will revise and adapt existing scenarios from the industry and other sources to develop a more detailed representation of aviation. We will then include the sector in the 1.5 °C and 2 °C narratives used by the IPCC.

“The aviation sector is in the middle of one of the most severe crises it has ever faced. One crucial question is if and how the sector can succeed with a green reboot after the COVID-19 crisis has ended,” said project coordinator Steffen Kallbekken from CICERO.

CICERO is working together with the following international researchers in AVIATE:

Prof. David Victor from the University of California San Diego, USA Dr. Ulrike Burkhardt and Prof. Robert Sausen from the German Aerospace Center (DLR) Prof. David Lee from Centre for Aviation, Transport, and the Environment (CATE) at Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK Dr. Chih-Chieh Chen from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, USA.

The project also has the following user partners involved:

SAS (Scandinavian Airlines) Avinor (major airport operator in Norway) Telenor (major consumer of business flights)

AVIATE runs from 2020 until 2023 and is funded by the Research Council of Norway.