British Airways is so generous. So much so that they’re loaning one their planes to researchers at Cambridge University in order for them to gather data on the hidden impact of air travel — which could result in higher ticket prices due to additional environmental surcharges.
Not so generous, huh? It is if you take into account the environment instead of our wallets.
When it comes to aircraft emissions, presently CO2 is receiving all the heat while the effects of condensation trails, nitrogen dioxide and other emissions are going virtually unnoticed. According to the Times, ‘”The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has estimated that the damage done to the climate by these emissions is between twice and four times greater than the impact of carbon dioxide alone”.
While CO2 emissions are relatively easy to calculate — given that it directly correlates with fuel consumption — less is known about the effect of these other emissions. However, a German study reveals that condensation trails, which broaden after 30 minutes, form a cloud bank which traps heat, causing a greenhouse effect. Similarly, when nitrogen dioxide is emitted at altitude, it also forms the greenhouse gas ozone.
In addition to loaning aircrafts, British Airways is spending $100,000 on a Cambridge University sponsored workshop to better understand the effects of non-CO2 gases. A spokesman from BA said: “Recognizing that these aircraft non-CO2 effects may be important, we are committed to improving scientific understanding in this area by supporting and engaging in research initiatives.” Critics argue that these intiatives are BA’s attempt to “present itself as the responsible face of the airline industry”.
The timing raises eyebrows as well. British Airways is currently looking into building a new runway at Heathrow, which is receiving considerable flak from environmentalists.
Whether their motives are self-serving or not, we applaud a private company taking the lead on environmental issues. Let’s just hope these emissions “surcharges” are indeed used for further research.