Aviation Finds Some Support In Robb Report Article On Sustainability


A current article on the Robb Report website takes a look at the issue of flight shaming, and how private aviation is responding. The article starts with examining how private aviation is leading the charge down the road toward carbon neutrality with sustainable fuels and alternative propulsion systems, but also acknowledges that public perception of elite travelers sipping champagne in their luxury jets makes traveling that road an uphill slog.

The author quotes Erik Lindbergh, grandson of Charles Lindbergh and chairman of the family’s Lindbergh Foundation, which offers grants to promote decarbonizing aviation’s image. “We have a big target on our backs,” he said. “We need to get in front of the issue if we’re going to survive.”

In what is unusual for a non-aviation publication, the Robb Report article challenges some common anti-private-aviation themes. For example, critics compare business aircraft emissions to those of airliners, but they make their comparisons on a per-passenger basis, claiming the smaller jets—with far fewer passengers—produce 14 times as much in emissions. By that measure, a five-passenger Prius doesn’t compare very well to a city bus when it comes to emissions. The writer accurately points out that an average business jet with a reasonable number of passengers on board ranks about even with a single-driver pickup truck when it comes to carbon footprint.

In another aviation-friendly stance, the writer reveals how business aviation leaders last year committed to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and that a 2009 pledge to reduce carbon emissions by 2 percent per year from 2010 to 2020 was made good.

And speaking of the principle of “net-zero emissions,” the Robb Report writer takes a skeptical view at the rationale behind the theory that you can contribute XX carbon to the atmosphere, as long as you contribute to accredited efforts to offset that amount by supporting carbon reduction initiatives elsewhere, such as reforestation or other environmental programs. The writer asserts that the theory might not always play out with the integrity it implies. Finally, the report cites an oft-ignored statistic on carbon emissions. All of aviation is responsible for just 2 percent of carbon emissions worldwide, and all of private aviation represents just 2 percent of that number.

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. “All of aviation is responsible for just 2 percent of carbon emissions worldwide”

    No, all of mankind only contributes 2% of carbon emissions worldwide 98% are natural.
    The equation then for GA is 2% of 2% of the 2% released by people.

    Since we’re talking about 0.000008 for GA then we are already doing our part by being so close to “net-zero emissions” as to be unable to be measured with modern instruments.

    • I see you still struggle with the basic underlying physics of the carbon cycle and radiative transport through the atmosphere. The uninitiated and uninformed make assumptions like yours, that the total impact of X mass of CO2 in the atmosphere is linear with the global climate response. It is of course, much more complicated than that.

      Having read the article linked here, it’s nice to see a balanced and more honest approach towards the climate impact of aviation and business aviation specifically. I’m encouraged by the range of engineering and sustainability efforts that seem to be emerging across the aviation sector and what that could mean for the long-term prospects for this important industry.

      Unfortunately there remain plenty of knee-jerk reactions by those who refuse to consider the nuances of aviation and it’s role in climate- like the post above, as well as among the “ban private jets now!” crowd. Reading comprehension and the patience required to actually examine an issue is a problem both of these tribes struggle with. Suggest taking a break from social media if you fall into those categories.

      • I see you still struggle with the basic underlying physics that the atmosphere is NOT a closed system and that heat ONLY travels from warmer to cooler. It’s unreasonable and scientifically impossible to assert that heat “flows” from a warm open atmosphere and toward a warmer surface below. We (should) know this being pilots and being familiar with the adiabatic lapse rate for dry air.

  2. You think proving “sustainability” is going to stop the attack on success? Climate Change is a tool being used against a capitalist system that results in inequality of outcome.

    It’s about envy, not climate.

    • Not wrong that envy plays some part of this, but what is your solution? Doing nothing only perpetuates the stereotype of the “out of touch billionaire” and ignores the real climate impact of aviation. It’s not the biggest problem, not by a long shot. Better to reveal those actual numbers to the traveling public (and private!) than to assume anyone who critiques aviation emissions is a crackpot.

      Business aviation has a major, positive impact on society and its growth is important, period. But like many things based on fossil fuels, it will remain under the microscope, with increasing attention over time. Ignore climate impact at your peril as in the decades hence, staying competitive will require some effective mitigation efforts. As I said above, I’m encouraged by the engineering innovation in this sector- yes many ideas will fail, but some will succeed, and profit because of it.

    • You cannot argue with their word salads, their ill defined terms, or their intentionally redefined terms. Their latest term “climate change” means anything they want it to (hot, cold, windy, calm, dry, wet) so they can point to ANY condition to confirm their per-determined conclusion. It’s a 6-7 figure paycheck if you can get in on the deal.

  3. We’ll be having this debate until the Progs (socialists) are all vanquished or the world’s economy is decimated to the point when we achieve net zero carbon emissions (exceptions for CCP, of course). Lucky for me I’m old enough that I won’t have to experience that communist utopia. Of course Bill Gates, AlGore, Leo DiCaprio, and all their WEF buddies will still enjoy their fancy cars and chauffeured limos, private jets, and multiple huge houses because, well, they’re our overlords, and they’re saving the earth. And as the President’s Climate Change Envoy John Kerry explained, he just couldn’t accomplish his job by flying on the airlines, and had to fly in his private Gulfstream. Leading by example. Uh-huh…

      • I’m not at all against the use of private jets burning jet fuel. I was a corporate for 36 years who flew a variety of jets including Gulfstreams. I’m just opposed to our betters who continuously offer spurious arguments about burning carbon fuels causing ‘climate change’ while flying around in their private jets emitting carbons telling the world we need to reduce our carbon footprint. And how much carbon fuel is required to produce those sustainable fuels? None of it makes sense to me.