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COVID-19 sheds light on ghost flights

Home/Air Pollution, Global Warming/COVID-19 sheds light on ghost flights

Published on 8 March 2020 by

COVID-19, the appalling pathogen that is bringing global economies to their knees, has shed light over inaction by the European Union. Until the time of publishing, no relaxation to the EU’s 80/20 “Use it or lose it” airport slot regulation came into force. Due to the decline in air travel, international airlines are making use of Ghost Flights to major EU airports to maintain their assigned airport slots. The impasse counters environmental efforts to reduce carbon emissions generated by the aviation industry.

The European Union, with core principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights, freedom, and the rule of law is the envy of many. According to the United Nations Development Programme, all the 27 member states have a very high Human Development Index (HDI). For the unaware, HDI is a measurement of life expectancy, education, and per capita income. The European Union, as a political continent, has the most extensive environmental laws. Most EU Member States have much lower emissions per capita than the US, Canada or Australia. Notwithstanding such, as with the case of Ghost Flights, slips happen as the coronavirus COVID-19 uncovered.

Flying high on emissions

Air travel has its advantages. It takes us to the farthest reaches of the world in a matter of hours. It’s an adventure by itself, and it is the safest means of transport. People around the world use this type of transportation for their vacations, yet, and this is when it starts to get quirky; it is mainstream business travel. Keeping to the EU, its political structure is a glorified “air miles and social club”. In light of their environmental policies, the EU should resolve more to web conferencing.

As per the ICCT working paper, in 2018, the aviation industry accounted for 2.4% of global human-generated carbon (CO2) emissions. The emissions dumped at high altitudes amount to 918 million metric tonnes (MMT) of carbon along with other greenhouse gases (GHGs). Aircraft emissions trap the heat that is released from the Earth’s surface to space, thereby amplifying global warming. In scientific terms, this unbalance is called Positive Radiative Forcing.

Striking a balance

Economic growth and prosperity, as currently undertaken, counters environmental efforts aimed to achieve wellbeing. Change can only happen gradually, hopefully in time before we reach or exceed tipping points. An estimate of 65.5 million jobs around the world depends on the aviation industry.  On the other hand, as per WHO, 7 million people die per year due to air pollution. In Europe, airlines have continued to increase their carbon emissions despite a 2050 industry target to cut emissions to half of the 2005 levels.

The EU 2019 European Aviation Environmental Report outlines that net CO2 emissions from aviation had increased by 3% throughout 2014 and 2017. A net increase of 136 million tonnes of CO2 in our stratosphere! Do low-cost flights account for the amplified air travel within the EU? Read the Guardian report here.

“It is a matter of seriously addressing cross-sectoral processes collectively. EU should pull up its socks and roll up its sleeves to establish economic equity and environmental protection for real.” – Fabian Borg

COVID-19 and the ghost flight impact

Despite the global outbreak of the dreadful pathogen, the coronavirus COVID-19 is exposing unnecessary processes and safeguards that damage our environment. Ghost flights happen when airlines maintain their flying schedule without passengers or cargo, not to lose their airport slots. Apart from wasting thousands of gallons of kerosene, these flights are dumping tonnes of CO2 and other GHGs in our atmosphere for the sake of airport slots! Notwithstanding the reason behind airport slots that serve to administer filghts, schedules and airport services, delayed flights are yet the agenda of the day.

It is about time that we seriously address the silent killer that is claiming the lives of millions of people each year. It is simple to point fingers towards governmental institutions; in all fairness, we have our obligations too.  We should address our lush lifestyles and not merely rely on others to do so. Pollution has no borders.

Debunking myths

Q. Is the moon flat? We only see the same face.

A. NO! The moon is a sphere in shape. We only see the same face as its locked in a tidal lock with Earth.

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About The Author

Fabian Borg
Fabian BorgConcept Creator and Owner of PHASE 1 (PH-1)
Termed as a polymath by the academia, Fabian Borg is a multi-skilled professional that can bridge varied scientific research fields with operational management. He is renowned for creating PHASE 1 (PH-1), which is an operational framework to successfully implement scientific projects aimed at diminishing Urban Heat Islands (UHI). The latter are contributors to the overall global warming phenomena.