Rolls-Royce chief technology officer Paul Stein has warned that a strategy of flying less to reduce aviation emissions could be the harbinger of a "darker age" for international relations.
Speaking at a summit of senior executives from seven major aerospace manufacturers at the Paris air show on 18 June, Stein said commercial aviation's role in connecting people across borders, facilitating mutual understanding, social and economic advances, and therefore making the world a "safer place", has been underestimated.
Proponents of a reduction in travel to counter climate change are "looking at a darker age", he argues.
"Flying is good – what we have got to do is manage the emissions," he says.
Also in attendance at the summit were the chief technology officers of Airbus, Boeing, Dassault Aviation, GE Aviation, Safran and United Technologies.
The executives have agreed to meet thrice-yearly to co-ordinate strategies how the aviation industry as a whole can reduce its environmental impact and achieve a commitment to a net reduction in carbon emissions from 2050.
Stein says the group is not aimed at replacing existing organisations and the initiatives intended to reduce aviation's environment footprint – but to serve as a "small, compact" team of key aerospace players that will provide a "drum beat" for the wider sector's response to climate change.
He foresees a fundamental change in the economic assumptions underpinning aviation and other transport sectors as these industries adapt to "a world where climate change is clearly top of the agenda".
Changes in legislation and government incentives – for example, to enable widespread employment of biofuel, which is today substantially more expensive to produce than fossil-based kerosene – are set to play a huge role in making aviation more environmentally friendly.
Stein thinks it is "unwise" to make projections based on "economic models from today view" how the aviation industry can fulfil its environmental commitments
"The whole transportation seam... is going to change," he says, citing "the whole emphasis towards environmental protection".