Julian Moxon/PARIS

The effect of aircraft on global atmospheric pollution in the next century has been assessed in detail for the first time in a report by an international group of scientists.

The main finding of "Aviation and the Global Atmosphere", prepared by the Zurich, Switzerland-based Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is that the impact of aircraft emissions on the atmosphere will be "far greater in 2050 unless new technologies and operational modes are developed".

Fuel consumption by civil aviation is expected to reach 300 million tonnes by 2015 and 450 million tonnes by the middle of the next century - more than three times the figure for 1992, says the report.

While not attempting to provide solutions to reduce pollution, the report goes into detail on the complex factors which affect climate change. It considers the gases and particulates emitted by aircraft, the role they play in climate change and how they modify the ozone layer. It points out that aircraft take years to pass from the drawing board to service entry, then remain in service for at least 25 years.

"Although new technologies would have an immediate effect on emissions from new aircraft, any impact [on the atmosphere] would be limited by the rate of introduction of the new technology into the global fleet," the report says.

The European Association of Aerospace Industries has welcomed the study, but admits that "considerable further scientific investigation" is needed to understand the emissions process. It points out that the last 20 years has seen a doubling of fuel economy, with a corresponding halving of carbon dioxide emissions.

The IPCC agrees, but adds that the trend to higher operating pressures and temperatures has resulted in increased production of nitrogen oxides, which are "very influential" in the ozone production and destruction processes.

Source: Flight International