How much does an AIRCRAFT POLLUTE? - Data and effects

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The air Transport It is currently the one with the highest growth of all means of transport, becoming one more element in the life model of society. Airplanes are used both to transport goods and to travel, leisure increasingly desired by the population, thus having this type of transport great socioeconomic benefits. However, although the use of the airplane has great socio-economic benefits locally and globally, the reality is that the use of the airplane has great negative consequences for the environment and all living beings.

If you want to know how much an airplane pollutes per km or what are the polluting gases from airplanes, continue reading this interesting article by Green Ecologist where we will explain it in detail.

How much airplanes pollute

Increasingly used airplanes produce greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide, contributing to global warming. Air transport emits approximately 2% of the world's carbon emissions. In order to account for CO2 emissions, they are calculated taking into account the number of passengers, the type of aircraft, the number of take-off and landing cycles, and the distance, among other factors. That is why saying how much an aircraft pollutes is relative, as it depends on many factors and your carbon footprint can vary. For example, a plane full of passengers traveling a distance from London to Paris does not pollute the same as private jets, since private planes distribute their emissions among fewer people.

Below is an example of the emissions of a plane that travels the round trip distance between New York and Madrid: with an average of 150 and 300 passengers, they emit between 900 and 1,350 tons of carbon dioxide.

How airplanes pollute the environment

The effects of air pollution affect different qualities of the environment at the local level, that is, especially in areas where airports are located. These effects are divided into three categories:

  • Noise pollution: the noise caused by all the movements of the aircraft, by the engines and aerodynamic noise. Learn more about what noise pollution is and how it affects us with this other article.
  • Air pollution: CO2 emissions from aviation, as well as other harmful substances released by airplanes, deteriorate air quality in the airport territory. In this other post we talk more about Why the air is polluted.
  • Landscape impact: the airplanes also have a landscape impact due to the modification of the environment, required to be able to carry out all those airport operations. Both the orography and the biotope are modified, since species that are not compatible with aerial activity are eliminated. Here you can read more about visual pollution, its causes, consequences and solutions.

On the other hand, airplanes at a global level also have the following impacts:

  • For their manufacture as well as to put them into operation, they are extracted non-renewable raw materials like oil, especially for the kerosene used by airplanes, and also metals like titanium.
  • The infrastructures used for air transport also have impacts such as the ecosystem degradation, contamination of soils and water table by discharges that are emitted by activities in airports, contamination or diversion of natural drainage, interference with the routes of migratory birds and global landscape impact.
  • Contribution to global warming by greenhouse gas emissions.

Do airplanes or cars pollute more?

An Airbus A380 type aircraft with a fuel capacity of 323,546 liters, and a large passenger capacity, needs to use the energy equivalent to the fuel that is used for approximately 3,500 cars, so an airplane is more polluting than a car.

Although, what is true is that the pollution of a car also depends on different factors, such as the type of fuel, the engine, the distance traveled, among others, and according to these, what gets to contaminate a car can vary a lot. .

Does the plane or ship pollute more?

Taking into account that a train has CO2 emissions of 14 grams per person and kilometer traveled, an airplane of approximately 285 grams and a ship a thousand times more than the train, speaking at the CO2 level, the ship is more polluting than the plane. In addition, the ship is also more polluting than an airplane due to the wastewater production it has.

What is the most harmful means of transport for the environment

As shown by the World Tourism Organization and the United Nations Program, the most polluting and harmful transport for the environment are Cruises, since a cruise ship with a capacity for 3,000 people produces up to 210,000 liters of wastewater per week and emits 1,000 times more carbon dioxide than a train trip that, as we have said before, emits 14 grams of CO2 per person and km route.

In conclusion, tourism either by boat or by plane has a great environmental impact, so it is best to travel by train or bus, which emit less CO2 emissions per passenger and kilometer traveled.

If you want to read more articles similar to How much an airplane pollutes, we recommend that you enter our Pollution category.

  • Gustavo Alonso Rodrigo (University Professor, Aeronautical E.T.S.I., Polytechnic University of Madrid, Spain.) And Arturo Benito Ruiz de Villa (University Professor, Aeronautical E.T.S.I., Polytechnic University of Madrid, Spain.). The environmental impact of air transport and measures to mitigate it:
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