GovCon Wire EventsIt hosted its FAA: Climate Change Priorities Fireside chatWednesday session with keynote speaker Kevin Welsh, executive director of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Environment and Energy, who delivered exclusive insights to the virtual audience on how the aviation industry is tackling climate change through sustainability initiatives, environmentally-focused fuel alternatives and policy frameworks as the critical issue continues to pose significant threats around the world.
Independent journalist Miles O’BrienThe conversation was moderated by Welsh, an aviation analyst for CNN and science correspondent at PBS NewsHour. It covered some of the most pressing and difficult-to-solve problems facing the aviation industry today, in the contexts of climate change resilience, environmental justice, and protection against an increasing number extreme weather events.
After opening remarks and speaker introductions from SAIC’s Chief Climate Scientist Steve Ambrose, O’Brien and Welsh dove into the discussion and shed light on how FAA’s climate action plan aims to implement transformational change across the nation’s airports and facilities in alignment with the White House’s climate-focused initiatives.
“Experts believe that aviation contributes approximately two to three percent of CO2 emissions worldwide and in the United States,” shared Welsh as he set the stage for the current climate crisis and described the role aviation plays in it. O’Brien also noted that the aviation enterprise is responsible for 11 percent of the country’s transportation-related emissions.
Welsh said that aside from CO2, there are many lesser-known and less well-understood factors that are contributing to the climate crisis, such as contrails or condensation trails that can be effected by jets.
“Of course, these are short-lived climate impacts,” Welsh said of the temporary cloud formations. “But one of the Biggest challenges is really understanding from a scientific perspective how big of an impact they have.”
Welsh highlighted the FAA’s Ascent Center of Excellenceas a hub of sustainability in aviation. We applauded their efforts to clarify the uncertainty surrounding these cirrus clouds, understand and mitigate their impact.
Welsh said that although the aviation industry faces many environmental issues, the industry has also experienced an era of innovation and success, especially in the area of fuel efficiency.
“While the system was carrying 89 percent more passengers in 2019 than in 1991, it was only burning 27 percent more fuel,” he shared. “The fleet has an average fuel efficiency of 57.5 passenger miles per gallon of fuel,” Welsh said, mentioning a drastic improvement of that figure from the mid-thirties in the 1990s.
However, the FAA’s overarching goal, as outlined in the agency’s Aviation Climate Action PlanIt is not just about improving fuel efficiency, but also aiming to achieve net-zero emissions over the coming decades.
According to Welsh, “The real challenge then is even with all this efficiency, how do we go beyond the track record that we have over the last three decades to actually bend the curve downward and get emissions going towards that net-zero 2050 goal?”
To hear the full conversation between FAA’s Kevin Welsh and journalist Miles O’Brien, visit the GovCon Wire Eventspage, where you will find all the details Watch the FAA: Climate Change Priorities Fireside chat on-demand now.
If you’re interested in learning more about climate change and its importance in the federal, commercial and GovCon sectors, join the Climate Policy: How Climate Policy Can Drive ChangeEvent hosted by the sister platform Potomac Officers ClubOn Feb. 24,
SAIC’s Steve Ambrose will join representatives from academia, industry and government agencies in a timely discussion on creating robust climate policy frameworks to address urgent environmental issues as new challenges emerge.
Register nowFor the Climate Policy: How Climate Policy Can Drive ChangeVirtual event on February 24.