The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Which Airlines Are the Best and Worst for Climate Change?
As of 2018, the commercial aviation industry accounted for 2.5 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. If it were its own country, it would be the 7th highest emitter on the planet.
Because of this, some climate activists have begun calling on people to reduce the amount of time they spend in the air, or to stop flying all together. Two Swedish moms, for example, got at least 10,000 people to pledge not to fly at all in 2019 as part of their No-fly 2019 (Flygfritt 2019) campaign, as BBC News reported.
But if you do need to fly, it turns out not all airlines are carbon-equal. A report released Tuesday from the London School of Economics' (LSE) Transition Pathway Initiative (TPI) compared what the 20 top publicly-traded airline companies are doing to combat climate change, and found that only one — the budget airline EasyJet — was on track to keep its carbon dioxide emissions low enough after 2020 to meet the Paris agreement goal of limiting warming to below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
In general, the study found that the entire industry had to do better. No company had a clear plan to reduce emissions past 2025. Further, many companies that had adopted emissions reduction targets relied on carbon offsetting. But the International Energy Agency (IEA) has found that limiting warming to below two degrees is only possible if airlines actually reduce their own emissions.
However, some airlines are doing more than others. The study rated airlines on both the quality of their overall climate change management plans and their emissions per passenger kilometer (the number of passengers multiplied by the distance flown).
In terms of Management Quality, Delta, United, Lufthansa and Japan-based ANA Group scored the highest, while Air China; China Southern; Korean Air; Singapore Airlines and Turkish Airlines scored lowest. One airline, Wizz Air, scored even lower, but it has disclosed more data to LSE since the study was undertaken.
In terms of projected emissions (in grams of carbon dioxide per passenger kilometer) by 2020, the airlines rank as follows, from most to least efficient.
- EasyJet: 75
- Alaska Air: 87
- Qantas: 89
- United: 92
- Southwest and Jetblue: 98
- LATAM: 102
- Delta: 104
- Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines: 107
- Air China: 108
- IAG: 112
- Japan Airlines: 125
- ANA Group: 133
- Korean Air: 172
There was no 2020 data for American Airlines, China Southern or Singapore Airlines, and no data at all for Wizz Air and IndiGo.
BBC News issued a caveat about EasyJet's high performance, however:
There is also some cause for caution over EasyJet's carbon virtue. Remember that the figures are based on CO2 per passenger kilometre.
This means EasyJet can improve its per capita performance by stuffing planes with cut-price ticket-holders, thereby potentially encouraging a new generation of frequent flyers.
Indeed, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) expects the number of airline passengers to double to 8.2 billion by 2037, which could make the sector's emissions worse, CNN reported.
The study itself is proof of growing pressure on the airline industry to reduce emissions, however. It was funded by the Environment Agency Pension Fund, which represents institutional investors who want their money to go to companies that are making an effort to reduce their carbon footprint.
"Investors have a clear message to the aviation sector," co-chair of the Transition Pathway Initiative on behalf of the Environment Agency Pension Fund Faith Ward said in the study press release. "When it comes to carbon performance they must be in it for the long haul. That means setting stretching emissions reduction targets to 2030 and beyond, and ending a reliance on offsetting. It's clear from TPI's research that this is not currently the case."
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.