on Hawaii emissions cuts: power, planes and us

jet emissions haunt hawaii

Air travel is the elephant in the room as we consider Hawaii's emissions reduction challenges.

Why? Because air travel emissions are seldom considered in our emissions reductions schemes, and because air travel is expected to grow rapidly in the decades ahead.

Net-net, as Britain is now learning, these air travel emissions could wipeout virtually all emissions reduction gains in other sectors.

Joel Makower reminds us of these essential facts in presenting the latest research on air travel emissions (via 2 steps forward).

Says Makower, "The airline industry seems poised to finally confront its environmental impacts...and policy makers are making some tentative first steps to bring airline emissions back down to earth."

These looming emissions from growing air travel are crucial considerations, yet Hawaii tends to focus on emissions from generating electricity, which constitutes only 34% of total emissions.

Meanwhile, the combination of air and marine transport contributes another 31%, and the combination of residential and ground transportation constitutes another 27% of Hawaii's total emissions.

So says John Tantlinger, DBEDT's emissions guru, noting that waste treatment emissions constitute the final 8%.

Tantlinger's preliminary emissions estimates for 2005 (together with revised emissions estimates for 1990) provide a useful set of benchmark numbers for contemplating a robust emissions reduction strategy.

For added perspective, we should note that Hawaii's utilities are up 15% over 1990 levels, while air and marine emissions are down 18%.

The big boomer in island emissions is the home/business/vehicle combination, which is up 47% in the last 15 years.

OK, so considering the significant size and growth of this combined set of emissions, you might say that's two elephants.

Either way, the strategic point is that a fairly exclusive focus on electricity generation ain't gonna get'r done in Hawaii's emissions reduction game.

To be fair, the fairly dramatic declines in air and marine emissions represents a phenomenal period of technology adaptation, the result of which is that the current generation of planes and boats is about as efficiency limit. In other words, we should not expect these emissions to keep declining...especially as Hawaii shares in the global growth of air travel in future.

(BTW, Tantlinger's air travel emissions estimates for 2005 are somewhat higher than I previously estimated, at 8.4 million tons of CO2 equivalent vs. my 6.0 million tons.) 

So, we will be hard-pressed to achieve the necessary reductions in electricity emissions, and we may find it difficult to maintain the transport reductions, yet the biggest worry is the emissions from our homes, business and vehicles.

In Hawaii, these are the sectors that are relatively high a rising, and we may find it most challenging to reduce these emissions in the years ahead.

Published by Ken on June 26th, 2007 tagged Climate Change, HI-specific

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