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Environmental Impacts of Air Travel

ELI EFFINGER-WEINTRAUB
Do It Green! Minnesota

Aircrafts account for 12 percent of carbon dioxide emissions from US transportation sources and three percent of our total carbon dioxide emissions. The US is responsible for nearly half of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions from aircraft.

Airplanes emit nitrogen oxides, which are chief contributors to smog, acid rain, and water quality deterioration.

One round-trip flight from the US to Europe adds three to four tons to an individual’s annual carbon footprint and creates more greenhouse gas emissions than driving a medium-sized car 7,500 miles a year. For a family of four, one trip creates more CO 2 than the family generates domestically in an entire year.

Because they travel in the air, airplane emissions exert about 2.7 times more impact on the atmosphere than comparable emissions on the ground.

Military and supersonic jets flying in the stratosphere destroy ozone. In that atmospheric layer, ozone shields the Earth from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, decreasing temperature. Commercial aircraft in the upper troposphere creates ozone. In that atmospheric level, ozone functions as a greenhouse gas, trapping solar radiation and increasing temperature.

Train travel produces approximately ten times less CO 2 per mile than does an equivalent air flight.

Explore Minnesota Tourism exploreminnesota.com and Green Routes greenroutes.org list hundreds of flight-free trips and destinations right in your own home state.

Air Travel

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