Preprint Article Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

The Potential Climatic Significance of the Global Reduction in Aviation During the Pandemic

Version 1 : Received: 9 December 2020 / Approved: 10 December 2020 / Online: 10 December 2020 (14:03:55 CET)
Version 2 : Received: 6 March 2021 / Approved: 8 March 2021 / Online: 8 March 2021 (16:23:27 CET)

How to cite: Cairns, S. The Potential Climatic Significance of the Global Reduction in Aviation During the Pandemic. Preprints 2020, 2020120266 (doi: 10.20944/preprints202012.0266.v1). Cairns, S. The Potential Climatic Significance of the Global Reduction in Aviation During the Pandemic. Preprints 2020, 2020120266 (doi: 10.20944/preprints202012.0266.v1).

Abstract

This paper suggests that, in 2020, the beneficial atmospheric effect from the reduction in aviation could be at least 7-8 times as great as that occurring from the global reduction in fossil carbon dioxide emissions. Specifically, compared to potential atmospheric effects in 2020 without the pandemic, the decrease in effective radiative forcing from reduced contrail-cirrus formation may be in the order of 35mWm-2 in 2020, compared to a reduction of only 4-5mWm-2 from the drop in fossil CO2 emissions. Over time, pursuing a low carbon pathway generates benefits that mount up to be much more significant than 2020 effects might imply, and is essential to stabilise the climate. However, this paper argues that a twin-track policy focus may be needed, with more emphasis on reducing short-term climate forcing, to minimise the impacts of climate change now, and to avoid detrimental feedback events. Future policy decisions about aviation should be made in this context.

Subject Areas

aviation; transport policy; climate change; pandemic; non-CO2; contrail-cirrus; contrail-cirrus

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