Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

Flying high on greenhouse gas

By Andrew Macintosh and Christian Downie - posted Monday, 4 June 2007

With falling prices and rising incomes Australians are flying more than ever before. But climate change is going to change all this. How are we going to deal with our addiction to flying?

Aviation is currently responsible for a small proportion of greenhouse gas emissions, around 2 per cent of Australia’s total emissions.

Because of this, the aviation industry and governments have shown little regard for the impacts of aviation on the atmosphere. In fact, aviation policy at the federal and state level actively promotes the expansion of airports and the aviation industry. The benefits of inbound tourism are praised by all.


However, the Australia Institute has recently made projections of aviation emissions in Australia to 2050 and found that, if left unchecked, continued growth of the industry could derail efforts to tackle global warming.

Between 2005 and 2050, emissions from aviation are expected to rise by more than 250 per cent. This rate of growth is incompatible with the emission reduction targets that are needed to avoid dangerous climate change.

The science suggests that Australia needs to cut its emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. Yet if the aviation industry continues under business-as-usual conditions, it could consume more than Australia’s entire emissions allowance in 2050.

Even if Australia adopts a lower target of 60 per cent reductions by 2050, as the Labor Party has proposed, aviation could still gobble up more than half Australia’s emissions allowance by the middle of the century.

These projections point to one conclusion: if nothing is done to curb aviation emissions, we won’t be able to meet the targets that are necessary to deal with global warming.

In many other areas, like electricity generation and land-based transport, technology can offer solutions. For example, we can generate electricity from wind and solar and drive electric cars. The same cannot be said for aviation.


There is no available technology that can significantly reduce aviation emissions. Basically, planes need to burn kerosene to stay in the air. If a technological breakthrough does occur, it will take decades to implement because of the need to replace the existing aircraft fleets and supporting infrastructure.

Dealing with aviation emissions therefore means cutting back on the amount we fly. To ensure this occurs, the government should immediately introduce a $30 greenhouse charge on flights: a small amount that would need to be ramped up quickly.

Beyond this, more comprehensive measures must be put in place to reduce aviation demand, promote innovation and encourage the substitution of air travel with low-emission alternatives.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All

First published in The Canberra Times on May 30, 2007.

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

26 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Authors

Andrew Macintosh is Deputy Director of The Australia Institute, a Canberra-based think tank, and author of Drug Law Reform: Beyond Prohibition.

Between 2006 and 2008 Christian worked as a research fellow at the Australia Institute in Canberra, where he published widely on the economics and politics of climate change. He has appeared on television and radio discussing his research, and his opinion pieces have appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and the Canberra Times. Christian is currently a PhD scholar at the Australian National University where his research is focusing on the approach of key state actors to compliance during the international climate negotiations.

Other articles by these Authors

All articles by Andrew Macintosh
All articles by Christian Downie

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Article Tools
Comment 26 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy