1% of the World's Population is Responsible For 50% of Aviation Emissions

Research published in the journal Global Environmental Change found that an elite group of frequent flyers, who represent just 1% of the world's population, caused half of the aviation industry's carbon emissions in 2018. The 'super emitters' identified in the study flew approx 35,000 miles per year.

Dan Rutherford with the International Council on Clean Transportation told The Guardian that the study highlights financial inequality.

'The benefits of aviation are more inequitably shared across the world than probably any other major emission source,' he said. 'So there's a clear risk that the special treatment enjoyed by airlines just protects the economic interests of the globally wealthy.'

The researchers estimated that aviation emissions caused $100 billion in damage to the climate in 2018. They noted that the absence of payments to fix the damage 'represents a major subsidy to the most affluent.'

Researchers found that U.S. airline passengers have the largest carbon footprint, emitting more aviation-related CO2 than the next 10 countries combined, including the UK, Japan, Germany, and Australia.

The study's lead researcher, Stefan Gössling, told The Guardian that the COVID-19 pandemic is a perfect time to change the way the airline industry operates.

'The rich have had far too much freedom to design the planet according to their wishes. We should see the crisis as an opportunity to slim the air transport system.'