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“I love to travel. But I hate the fact that something I love to do, creates so much pollution.” In this episode of TILclimate (Today I Learned: Climate), MIT professor Steven Barrett and host Laur Hesse Fisher dig into how — and why — air travel impacts our earth’s climate, and what solutions are on the horizon.
They explore the surprising heating effect of condensation trails (“contrails”), how computer simulations of the earth’s climate system are built, and what scientists and engineers are doing to make flying, well, less bad for the planet.
Prof. Barrett is a professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Director of the Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment. Through this lab, he coordinates the MIT Electric Aircraft Initiative, which aims to assess and develop sustainable electric aircraft technology. To read more about Barrett’s research on contrails, biofuels, fuel efficiency, electric aviation technology, and more, check out the links below.
For other short, climate-explainer podcasts, see: www.tilclimate.mit.edu on MIT’s Climate portal.
Read more about:
Aviation solutions developed at MIT & beyond:
- MIT Electric Aircraft Initiative research (MIT Electric Aircraft Initiative)
- Electric planes that have no moving parts (MIT News)
- Alternative jet fuels that reduce CO2 emissions (Energy Policy Journal)
Prof. Steven Barrett and his work:
The earth’s reflectivity based on color (the albedo effect):
- NASA article on measuring the Earth’s albedo (NASA)
- MIT research on how urbanization is changing Earth’s albedo (MIT Concrete Sustainability Hub)
Articles mentioned in the podcast:
- For the Love of Earth, Stop Traveling (Washington Post)
- Empty skies after 9/11 set the stage for an unlikely climate change experiment (Global News)
For advice on personal air travel:
- “I feel guilty about flying… help!” (Yale Climate Conversations - Climate Advice)
An overview of climate change:
- Climate Science and Climate Risk: A Primer (MIT’s Kerry Emanuel)
Laur Hesse Fisher, Host and Producer
David Lishansky, Editor and Producer
Ruby Wincele, Student Researcher
Cecelia Bolon, Student Coordinator
Music by Blue Dot Sessions
Artwork by Aaron Krol
Special thanks to Tom Kiley and Laura Howells.
Produced by the MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.