Shifting from study to action on the climate
By Ben Iannotta|May 2021
For decades, the scientific community and many politicians viewed climate change as a mysterious, complex phenomenon worthy of continued study. Little scientific research was directed toward defining and carrying out concrete steps to reduce the warming of the planet or soften its effects. Our cover story about reducing jet contrails vividly illustrates the shift that’s underway from observation to experimentation and action. First, scientists had to make sure they could document how aircraft emissions of soot morph into contrail clouds. With that complete, they’re now in the process of figuring out which fuels safely maximize reduction of soot and contrail crystals.
We’re now seeing a similar shift occurring in other research domains as well. The planet’s coral reefs are vanishing at least in part due to warming seas. Marine scientists, rather than being content to bear witness to the tragedy in research papers, are learning to cultivate and plant corals to restore reefs.
This kind of action is heartening, but just as in any endeavor, not all ideas will succeed. We need to be braced for some setback and failures. If we’re lucky, the overall trend will be one of progress.
Our story about urban air mobility made me wonder about the possible climate effects of this emerging market. Perhaps the green aspect of these electric rotorcraft can be a selling point for potential passengers who remain leery of this concept for local travel, especially its autonomous flight aspects. Lots of questions need to be explored about this emerging market. For one, here in the United States we continue to love our automobiles, including SUVs, and we like to be captains of these ships. It’s unclear to me whether Americans will bop from the suburbs or exurbs into cities as passengers in UAM aircraft in significant enough numbers to make a dent in the carbon footprint of our local travel. In any case, perhaps our ground vehicles will go electric before the UAM aircraft and the vertiport and traffic management plans can be rolled out.
However that market plays out, going electric in our local transportation is another example of positive action for the climate.