Critical Issues in Aviation and the Environment

The Transportation Research Board (TRB) reviews the critical concerns and research priorities for environmental issues impacted by and affecting aviation activities in this report, including the issue of climate change. TRB evaluated the aviation impacts on noise, air quality, climate change, and water quality; sustainable solutions to minimize impacts; and processes and tools for solution implementation. Adaptation planning and preparedness is addressed with the general recommendation that downscaled, region-specific climate projections should be incorporated into airport planning processes and operations.

The report discusses the aviation industry’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, and policy measures to reduce the climate impacts of aviation emissions. TRB finds that in addition to policy measures, there are technological, operational, and management measures that can reduce fuel consumption and emissions, including strategies on renewable energy to power airport operations and on alternative, renewable jet fuels.

The section on adaptation planning and preparedness offers a brief description of TRB’s Airport Cooperative Research Program synthesis report on Airport Climate Adaptation and Resilience. The results from that survey of 20 North American airports indicated that flooding from sea level rise, storm surge, and increased precipitation is the primary vulnerability experienced by most airports. Additionally impactful on airport operations are extreme weather events. A case study for Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) is presented to illustrate operational and policy adaptation measures taken by DFW in response to extreme weather conditions - made more frequent by climate change.

TRB recognizes that airport operations and infrastructure are vulnerable to climate change, but that climate change considerations have not been fully integrated into planning and guidance documents within the aviation industry. Recommendations include industry adaptation strategies such as: downscaled modeling, more research on site-specific climate change vulnerabilities, incorporation of climate change into operations and infrastructure planning, identification of best practices, and assessment of adaptation strategies.


Publication Date: April 2014

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  • Assessment
  • Policy analysis/recommendations


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