Activism in the modern age is alive and well, and its targets are numerous. In most cases, it’s also heavily warranted, such as the rise in environmentalism we’ve seen in the past few years. But occasionally, zeal overtakes reason in the outcry and perfectly acceptable topics are swept into the uproar.
Amidst the environmental movement, private jets are now a noteworthy topic of conversation with many outspoken critics taking aim at private air travel. The anti-jet movement is on the rise. Unfortunately, it’s a little misguided.
Outspoken voices decry private jets
Air travel has always existed on the periphery of environmental activism. It’s brought up occasionally, but for the most part tends to take a back seat to other inflammatory issues like plastic waste and industrial pollution. However, recent activist voices like Greta Thunberg, Lewis Hamilton, and Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador have taken new aim at jets.
Hamilton and López Obrador both put their jets up for sale and commented on their dedication to environmentalism as the reason. Thunberg refuses to fly altogether, even going so far as to become a member of the growing We Stay On the Ground movement. These and many others have made no secret in their disdain for private air travel, citing it as a luxury — one causing unnecessary harm to the planet.
Practicality trumps outcry
The chief problem with activist outcry about private jets is that it’s erroneous. Although it’s true that private air travel is a luxury, that luxury comes second to practicality.
Take, for example, Thunberg’s 15-day boat voyage from England to the United States — a product of her refusal to fly. A CEO in New York that needs to close a deal in London doesn’t have two weeks to waste on a transcontinental boat ride. An organ transplant headed from Dallas, Texas, to Salt Lake City, Utah, won’t survive a road trip. A presidential candidate can’t keep a ten-city, four-state schedule without a little help from the jet stream.
Despite the perception of luxury, private jets are more an asset than an extravagance. They conserve a different precious resource: Time.
Oversimplification is dangerous
It’s no secret that air travel is a major contributor to carbon emissions, which resonates as the chief argument of environmentalists. What’s ignored, however, are the innovations coming to light as a result of emissions cognizance. Private aviation is making great strides in fields like biodiesel engineering, leading to cleaner-burning fuels soon to span all transportation. It’s largely thanks to air travel that algal fuels are the subject of tremendous research, innovation, and engineering.
The oversimplification of private air travel’s impact on the environment, without regard for its practicality or potential, is imprudent. In truth, although emissions from air travel do harm the environment, there are many other more detrimental contributors to climate change and ecological disruption.
Make no mistake, carbon emissions are a universal evil for the planet. But up against factory farming, industrial production, and agricultural and forestry operations, air travel pales in comparison — private air travel even more so. The newfound outcry from activists has simply made private aviation the poster child for a much larger problem.
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Over the past several decades, discussions about climate change and environmental protection have come to the forefront of public discussion. Everyone from the academic community to legislators at the highest levels of power are voicing concerns about climate change and its future effects. Today, leaders in the BizAv industry are working to create solutions that reduce the industry’s carbon footprint and promote sustainable industry growth.
Initiatives to reduce business aviation’s carbon footprint
Business aviation’s carbon footprint has been a conversation topic for decades, but concerted efforts to curb emissions have come about primarily over the past ten years. In 2009, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, along with other industry leaders, committed to making improvements that would make carbon-neutral growth in the industry possible by 2020.
Several environmental concerns are associated with business aviation. Organizations and businesses in the industry are taking different approaches to solve problems and reduce aviation’s carbon footprint. No single solution will address all the efficiency issues plaguing the industry, but the collaborative efforts by leaders across business aviation will promote progress toward sustainability.
Because of the level of power that’s needed to sustain flight while carrying passengers over long distances, jets consume a significant amount of fossil fuel. Due to the energy needs of aircraft, solar and electric power aircraft aren’t yet a viable option and likely won’t be for decades.
As aircraft consume fuel in the air, they emit carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere and contribute to climate change. To mitigate the emissions produced by jets, many researchers have begun investigating alternative fuel sources. Some researchers have also created synthetic jet fuels made from sustainable sources. Research into synthetic fuel options supports the entire aviation industry, and new solutions are continually being explored to reduce emissions from fuel burning.
While alternative fuel sources for aircraft are still decades away from widespread implementation, changes are already taking place in manufacturing. Manufacturers are finding innovative ways to create aircraft with lighter frames that use fuel much more efficiently.
In addition, focus has shifted to sustainable manufacturing practices and efficient manufacturing facilities. Many of the most prominent jet manufacturers have raised their standards and streamlined their processes to ensure efficiency.
Efficient traffic management
Along with infrastructure and technological improvements within the BizAv industry, education for aircraft operators has also improved in recent years. Aircraft operators monitor fuel consumption and efficiency with regard to almost every aspect of the flight, including reducing unnecessary payload and planning flights according to efficient practices.
The business aviation industry has come a long way in the past ten years, but we still have a long way to go in the fight against climate change. There’s no telling where new technologies, methods, and practices will take us — but the industry is moving toward a more sustainable future.