Jörgen Larsson, assistant professor at the department of space, earth and environment
​Author Jörgen Larsson, assistant professor at the Department of Space, Earth and Environment.​

Report on aviation climate impact most downloaded publication

With more than 400 unique downloads, the report ”Klimatpåverkan från svenska befolkningens internationella flygresor” ("Climate Impact of the Swedish Population's International air Travelling") from 2016 was the most downloaded publication from research.chalmers.se in the last year.

"It feels meaningful and great that our research is being requested by many people," says Jörgen Larsson, assistant professor at the Department of Space, Earth and Environment and one of the authors of the report.

The climate impact of commercial aviation has been a major environmental issue for several years, but historically there have been no reliable measurements of the actual impact of our international air travelling. The methods used to measure the environmental impact of Swedes’ air travels have been based on how much fuel that is being fueled in Sweden. For example, if a person is to travel from Gothenburg to the US with a stop in Amsterdam, only the emissions between Sweden and the Netherlands will be measured.

"What me and my colleagues at Chalmers and KTH did was to develop a method that measures the entire emission to the final destination," says Jörgen Larsson.
"That way we get the whole picture of Swedes' emissions. The method shows that the Swedish population's travelling by air causes the same greenhouse gas emissions as car traffic in Sweden."

Accusations of unscientific research 

But pointing out a big industry like commercial aviation as a major polluter isn't somehing that will be done in silence. The Swedish aviation sector accused Jörgen Larsson and his colleagues of conducting unscientific research. It went to the point where the presidents at Chalmers and KTH wrote a joint debate article where they called for better manners in the debate about the aviation industry and it’s environmental effects. At a meeting in spring 2018, the researchers met representatives from the industry to clear the air. Today, the researchers have initiated cooperation with Swedavia which owns and operates Arlanda and Landvetter, among other airports, and has gained access to large amounts of data that they can use in the ongoing research.

Not only the aviation sector has paid attention to the report. Still more than two years after it was published, Jörgen Larsson is contacted several times a month by individuals and organizations who want to talk about the report or interview him.

"In those situations it's important to be careful with what one says. In some interviews they would like me to say "stop flying", but there are also other organizations with different agendas. As a researcher, you have status and authority, and one have to be careful so that one doesn’t get used by any side in the debate.”

rgen Larsson and his colleague's ambition is to broaden the perspectives. The debate about the control of the aviation industry has often been centered on passenger taxes, and Jörgen Larsson thinks that we also need to discuss other additional instruments. He thinks there is a striking lack of action preparedness, both in terms of international and national instruments.

"A sharp increase in emissions"

"The aviation area is a sector with a sharp increase in emissions. Nevertheless, the controls are super weak in comparison to what is needed, and even efforts that would reduce emissions just a little bit are met with protests. A lot of people want to reduce our impact on the climate, but when it gets to close to their reality they become resistant. For me personally, it feels meaningful to conduct this research. If there is a will to prioritize this issue in the future, it is important that researchers have the knowledge.”

Kristina Graner is a librarian at the Department of Communication and Learning in Science, and works with Open Access publishing. She is not surprised that Jörgens Larsson's report has been downloaded that many times in the past year.

"Last year, there was a publication about textiles' life-cycle analysis that was the most downloaded, and it was also very accurate in time," she says. “One conclusion that one can make is that the publication needs to have something that people can understand and relate to, and that was more the case with this publication than with many other publications published at Chalmers. But one also needs to remember that this report is written in Swedish, thus making it available to a limited audience only.”

Publications with the most unique downloads from research.chalmers.se 2016-2018

Page manager Published: Fri 26 Oct 2018.