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The environment and airplanes are on a collision course, USA Today reports.

The newspaper takes a lengthy look at air pollution from airplanes. Researchers say carbon dioxide emissions are rising faster from aircraft than any other source.

According to the story:

Aircraft emissions pollute the air and threaten by 2050 to become one of the largest contributors to global warming, British scientists have concluded.

Much remains unknown about climate change and the role aviation plays, though climate scientists express particular concern about jet emissions in the upper atmosphere, where the warming effect from some pollutants is amplified.

Now, aviation is believed to be less a factor in the Earth’s warming than power plants or vehicular traffic. But its emissions are considerable. On a New York-to-Denver flight, a commercial jet would generate 840 to 1,660 pounds of carbon dioxide per passenger.

That’s about what an SUV generates in a month.

With the projected explosion in worldwide travel, air pollution from aviation is a growing concern among scientists, and it’s drawing increased scrutiny from governments, particularly in Europe.

What it doesn’t say: Europeans are taking it more seriously because they’re taking global warming’s threat more seriously.

The story offers an interesting idea:

University of North Carolina professor John Kasarda, who consulted in the design of airports in Detroit, Bangkok, Brazil and the Philippines, says a new approach to airport design could reduce emissions.

He said he sees merit in an untried design by Illinois inventor Jim Starry, who conceived the design while flying back to the USA from England in the early 1980s.

Starry envisions parallel runways – on an upward slant for landing and a downward slant for takeoff – leading jets directly onto, or off, the roof of a circular passenger terminal and parking garage. The design, which was first proposed by Starry to the FAA in the mid-1980s, reduces a jet’s taxi time, cutting emissions and saving fuel.


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