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Aviation and Climate Change: Aircraft Emissions Expected to Grow, but Technological and Operational Improvements and Government Policies Can Help Control Emissions

GAO-09-554 Published: Jun 08, 2009. Publicly Released: Jun 08, 2009.
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Aircraft emit greenhouse gases and other emissions, contributing to increasing concentrations of such gases in the atmosphere. Many scientists and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)--a United Nations organization that assesses scientific, technical, and economic information on climate change--believe these gases may negatively affect the earth's climate. Given forecasts of growth in aviation emissions, some governments are taking steps to reduce emissions. In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed (1) estimates of aviation's current and future contribution to greenhouse gas and other emissions that may affect climate change; (2) existing and potential technological and operational improvements that can reduce aircraft emissions; and (3) policy options for governments to help address commercial aircraft emissions. GAO conducted a literature review; interviewed representatives of government agencies, industry and environmental organizations, airlines, and manufacturers, and interviewed and surveyed 18 experts in economics and aviation on improvements for reducing emissions from aircraft. GAO is not making recommendations. Relevant agencies provided technical comments which we incorporated as appropriate and EPA said emissions standards can have a positive benefit to cost ratio and be an important part of policy options to control emissions.

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