100 airports underwater if science-based emissions targets are not met

Lately, many airlines have been talking about setting science-based targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This means that they have engaged with the Science Based Targets initiative, or SBTi for short, to determine how much they need to reduce CO2 emissions to stay in line with the Paris Agreement in order to avoid a change. dangerous climate by limiting global warming to well below 2°. C But what are the stakes for the aeronautical industry if these objectives are not achieved?

Hundreds of airports threatened

Beyond the apparent disasters that befall humanity in general if the world fails to come together and meet the task that leaders set themselves in the French capital in 2016, a global warming of 2° C would alter the aviation landscape in several monumental ways. One of them is to place at least 100 airports under water due to sea level rise.


By 2050, that mirageous deadline by which the industry has pledged to achieve net zero emissions, sea levels along the US coast are expected to rise another half a meter. Last year, a study by the Newcastle University School of Engineering found that a global temperature rise of 2°C, which the Paris Agreement aims to prevent, would put 100 airports around the world below the level of the sea. 364 other airports would be threatened by coastal flooding.

Flooding and increased hurricane strength are already causing major disruption

Flooding is already being felt at major airports around the world. In September 2021, New York Newark temporarily halted flights after severe flooding in New Jersey due to torrential rains from Hurricane Ida. A few years ago, Typhoon Jebi and its three-meter storm surge forced the closure of Kansai International Airport (KIX) which serves Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe. The airport is built on an artificial island and the bridge that connects it to the mainland was damaged when an oil tanker rammed it, leaving thousands of people stranded.

Hurricanes and extreme weather conditions are a significant disruption factor to aviation and the economy in general. Financial damage to the United States from the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season exceeded $70 billion. MIT research suggests that hurricanes are becoming more frequent and intense due to human-induced climate change.

Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport will be below sea level if temperatures rise more than 1.5 degrees. Photo: Getty Images

Goodbye BKK, LGA and LCY

Meanwhile, many of the major airports most at risk from climate change are located in Southeast and East Asia. Predicted water levels will put virtually all of Bangkok under water by 2050, including Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK). However, in the UK, London City Airport (LCY) poses the highest risk, and in the US, LaGuardia (LGA) and Newark (EWR) rank among the 100 airports listed by the study as being underwater.

London City is also in danger of disappearing. Photo: London City Airport

Other airports that will disappear include Shanghai Hongqiao (SHA) in China, Louis Armstrong International Airport (MSY) in New Orleans and Key West International Airport (EYW) in Florida. As coastal airports are disproportionately important to the global air network, by 2100 between 10 and 20% of all global connections are at risk of disruption. In addition to this, clear air turbulence and illumination will increase significantly with warmer air. However, that is a subject for another time.

Source: Climate Risk Management

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