'Tip of the iceberg': Aviation emissions three times larger than current estimates, scientists warn

Landmark report from EU aviation regulator into non-CO2 emissions produced by jet engines sets out new financial, fuel, and air traffic measures that would target the full gamut of aviation emissions

Aviation emissions are harming the planet at a far more severe rate than previously thought, according to a major new study from the European Union’s aviation regulator which examines the climate impact of a number of lesser-understood emissions produced by jet engines.

The analysis published this week by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) analysed the climate impacts of contrails – the line-shaped clouds produced by engine exhaust – in addition to the nitrous oxide (NOx), soot and sulphate particles, and water vapour relased into the atmosphere by jet exhaust alongside the well-documented carbon emissions.

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Aviation emissions are warming the climate at “approximately three times” the rate associated with CO2 emissions alone, once these non-CO2 emissions are taken into account, the research warns. While different emisssions produce different effects, all upset the natural chemical composition of the atmosphere and contribute to climate change, the study explained.

Green groups have urged the European Commission to pay close attention to the report’s findings and take urgent steps to step up climate regulations for the carbon intensive aviation sector, which is responsible for two per cent of global carbon emissions.

Jo Dardenne, aviation manager at campaign group Transport & Environment, said the study confirmed that carbon emissions are “only the tip of the iceberg” for the aviation sector’s climate impact. “Contrails and other non-CO2 effects of aviation need

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