A bumpy ride toward decarbonizing aviation

What are the technical solutions for making zero-carbon airplanes?

Aviation accounts for 2% to 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions. If the aviation sector were a country, its emissions would rank around 6th in the world, somewhere between Japan and Germany. If you add the additional warming impacts of aircraft contrails, estimates are that aviation contributes something like 3.5% of total anthropogenic warming.

It’s also another one of those notoriously tough-to-abate sectors. Jet fuel (aka kerosene) is pretty magical. It has enabled the movement of people and the globalization of high-value goods. 

Sustainable aviation fuels, hydrogen, electrification and electrofuels are all possible solutions — but they all come with their own challenges.

Dan Rutherford knows those challenges well. He’s the director of the aviation and maritime programs at the International Council on Clean Transportation. 

In this episode, Shayle talks to Dan about the pros and cons of these various tech pathways. They look at how these technologies could play out in the tight economics of airlines and who will bear those costs. They also examine the pressures on the industry to decarbonize, including consumer interest enabled by emerging low-carbon-travel search features. Finally, they peer into the future at the next generation of planes.

Catalyst is supported by Atmos Financial. Atmos offers FDIC-insured checking and savings accounts that only invest in climate-positive assets like renewables, green construction and regenerative agriculture. Modern banking for climate-conscious people. Get an account in minutes at joinatmos.com.