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      Technological, economic and environmental prospects of all-electric aircraft

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          Aviation and global climate change in the 21st century

          Aviation emissions contribute to the radiative forcing (RF) of climate. Of importance are emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxides (NO x ), aerosols and their precursors (soot and sulphate), and increased cloudiness in the form of persistent linear contrails and induced-cirrus cloudiness. The recent Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) quantified aviation's RF contribution for 2005 based upon 2000 operations data. Aviation has grown strongly over the past years, despite world-changing events in the early 2000s; the average annual passenger traffic growth rate was 5.3% yr−1 between 2000 and 2007, resulting in an increase of passenger traffic of 38%. Presented here are updated values of aviation RF for 2005 based upon new operations data that show an increase in traffic of 22.5%, fuel use of 8.4% and total aviation RF of 14% (excluding induced-cirrus enhancement) over the period 2000–2005. The lack of physical process models and adequate observational data for aviation-induced cirrus effects limit confidence in quantifying their RF contribution. Total aviation RF (excluding induced cirrus) in 2005 was ∼55 mW m−2 (23–87 mW m−2, 90% likelihood range), which was 3.5% (range 1.3–10%, 90% likelihood range) of total anthropogenic forcing. Including estimates for aviation-induced cirrus RF increases the total aviation RF in 2005–78 mW m−2 (38–139 mW m−2, 90% likelihood range), which represents 4.9% of total anthropogenic forcing (2–14%, 90% likelihood range). Future scenarios of aviation emissions for 2050 that are consistent with IPCC SRES A1 and B2 scenario assumptions have been presented that show an increase of fuel usage by factors of 2.7–3.9 over 2000. Simplified calculations of total aviation RF in 2050 indicate increases by factors of 3.0–4.0 over the 2000 value, representing 4–4.7% of total RF (excluding induced cirrus). An examination of a range of future technological options shows that substantive reductions in aviation fuel usage are possible only with the introduction of radical technologies. Incorporation of aviation into an emissions trading system offers the potential for overall (i.e., beyond the aviation sector) CO2 emissions reductions. Proposals exist for introduction of such a system at a European level, but no agreement has been reached at a global level.
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            Attribution of climate forcing to economic sectors.

            A much-cited bar chart provided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change displays the climate impact, as expressed by radiative forcing in watts per meter squared, of individual chemical species. The organization of the chart reflects the history of atmospheric chemistry, in which investigators typically focused on a single species of interest. However, changes in pollutant emissions and concentrations are a symptom, not a cause, of the primary driver of anthropogenic climate change: human activity. In this paper, we suggest organizing the bar chart according to drivers of change-that is, by economic sector. Climate impacts of tropospheric ozone, fine aerosols, aerosol-cloud interactions, methane, and long-lived greenhouse gases are considered. We quantify the future evolution of the total radiative forcing due to perpetual constant year 2000 emissions by sector, most relevant for the development of climate policy now, and focus on two specific time points, near-term at 2020 and long-term at 2100. Because sector profiles differ greatly, this approach fosters the development of smart climate policy and is useful to identify effective opportunities for rapid mitigation of anthropogenic radiative forcing.
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              Biofuel blending reduces particle emissions from aircraft engines at cruise conditions

              Aviation-related aerosol emissions contribute to the formation of contrail cirrus clouds that can alter upper tropospheric radiation and water budgets, and therefore climate. The magnitude of air-traffic-related aerosol–cloud interactions and the ways in which these interactions might change in the future remain uncertain. Modelling studies of the present and future effects of aviation on climate require detailed information about the number of aerosol particles emitted per kilogram of fuel burned and the microphysical properties of those aerosols that are relevant for cloud formation. However, previous observational data at cruise altitudes are sparse for engines burning conventional fuels, and no data have previously been reported for biofuel use in-flight. Here we report observations from research aircraft that sampled the exhaust of engines onboard a NASA DC‐8 aircraft as they burned conventional Jet A fuel and a 50:50 (by volume) blend of Jet A fuel and a biofuel derived from Camelina oil. We show that, compared to using conventional fuels, biofuel blending reduces particle number and mass emissions immediately behind the aircraft by 50 to 70 per cent. Our observations quantify the impact of biofuel blending on aerosol emissions at cruise conditions and provide key microphysical parameters, which will be useful to assess the potential of biofuel use in aviation as a viable strategy to mitigate climate change.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                (View ORCID Profile)
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                Journal
                Nature Energy
                Nat Energy
                Springer Science and Business Media LLC
                2058-7546
                February 2019
                December 10 2018
                February 2019
                : 4
                : 2
                : 160-166
                Article
                10.1038/s41560-018-0294-x
                © 2019

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