The Airbus A380 and CO2

The A380: the latest feat of the human species?

By Eric Souffleux

While everyone is congratulating themselves on the A380's first flight, I am deeply saddened. The society around me has Titanic Syndrome. She believes in the omnipotence of progress and does not need to think about the meaning she gives it. It does not matter whether we have heard of the presence of icebergs, the main thing is to continue to break records… in energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

In your columns, we can read that this plane is a "green giant" because it consumes only 2.9 liters of kerosene per 100 km per passenger. I find it just outrageous to talk about this aircraft as being an environmentally acceptable aircraft. But I understand this because there is a chronic lack of information on the icebergs that threaten us. Among these icebergs, the biggest is certainly global warming. To avoid the worst problems, we know that today we should limit our GHG emissions to 500 kg carbon equivalent, and it is very likely that tomorrow (by 2030-2050) this threshold will have to be lowered to 300 kg. What does this figure of 500 kg carbon equivalent correspond to in terms of oil consumption? Here is the conversion coefficient to remember: 1 liter of petroleum fuel results in the emission of approximately 800 g of carbon equivalent. (The author speaks here in pure carbon equivalent and not in CO2, this figure must be multiplied by approximately 3 to get the figure for the mass of carbon dioxide released, see: Equations of combustion and CO2 ). Therefore, limiting its emissions to 500 kg carbon equivalent amounts to limiting its annual oil consumption to 625 liters. This is already very little since it would correspond to a single journey by A380 (livestock version with a company of the "Air Bétail" style) of 21500 km! And because emissions are made at altitude, the resulting greenhouse effect is two to four times greater, which divides the acceptable mileage cap by the same amount. To simplify the calculations and take into account the scientific uncertainties on this subject, I did not take it into account for the rest of the text, but this aspect of the problem must be kept in mind.

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We must also take into account the fact that GHGs are emitted with activities other than transport activity. In France, only a quarter of our emissions are attributable to transport, so we can say that we should reserve for transport a quarter of the 625 liters mentioned above, or 159 liters (just one barrel of oil). ). With a barrel, you can only travel on the A380 for 5500 km!

And in this transport sector, it is not only aviation, it also has (and far ahead) cars, trucks and boats. In the end, the share of oil that we could reserve for traveling by A380 could be around 20 liters per year, or enough to do 700 km, which is really very optimistic given the characteristics of stratospheric emissions. We can see very clearly that the A380 is only compatible with ecology if people limit themselves to a single trans-oceanic voyage every 20 to 80 years. And again, they will have to limit their automobile fuel consumption at the same time to 50 liters per year, a full tank with our current cars!

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I believe I have given enough numbers for the reader to understand that the A380 is quite possibly the latest achievement of mankind in terms of inducing GHG emissions. When I was a child, my dream was to become a fighter pilot. I grew up with technical progress, I spent 60 hours on board civilian planes and I do not know by what miracle, I was guided by reason and wisdom on a different way of seeing the world. For two and a half years, I have entered into resistance against this society of waste and contempt for future generations. Do not count on me to continue on this path. I boycott aviation because now that I know the consequences, I will consider myself guilty of willful homicide against future generations if by chance I cross the boarding gate of an airliner again.

I also think that we will have to reserve our forces to face the rampant crack in real estate, the soaring oil and all the calamities that nature is preparing for us.

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To conclude, what saddens me the most is that through this forum, and generally speaking, all the media, I am a marginal. I dream that all the people who recognize themselves in what I write do the same, so that I am no longer the only one, or almost, to bear witness to my daily fight against the ambient fatalism.

Eric Souffleux

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