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We can’t afford to offset our aviation emissions

A plane flying across a blue sky with contrails behind it.
Passenger aircraft as seen flying over the Netherlands. | Image: Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

With business continuing as usual, climate pollution from aviation could nearly triple by 2050 as demand for air travel grows, according to a new study published yesterday in the journal Nature Sustainability. It would cost up to $1 trillion to try to remove enough of that pollution from the atmosphere to meet global climate goals — an untenable situation.

To put that enormous cost into context, the global airline industry only netted $26.4 billion in profits in 2019 before the covid pandemic curbed travel. And even if airlines can pay to remove all their emissions from the atmosphere, that’s still not guaranteed to slow climate change. While carbon offsets — paying to cancel out your climate pollution through green projects like…

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