Climate Change Poses Threats to Airlines, Study Finds

Category: Science/Environment


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. grounded / ˈɡraʊnd ɪd / (adj) – (of a pilot or aircraft) not allowed to fly

    Several planes were grounded because of the storm.

  2. lift / lɪft / (n) – a force that makes something (e.g. kites, aircraft) fly

    Planes use the wind to generate lift.

  3. take off / ˈteɪkˌɔf / (phrasal) – to leave the ground

    A plane has to get permission before it can take off.

  4. turbulence / ˈtɜr byə ləns / (n) – sudden strong winds

    The passengers on the plane had to fasten their seat belts because of turbulence.

  5. cargo / ˈkɑr goʊ / (n) – things transported by vehicles

    The small plane couldn’t carry much cargo.


Read the text below.

A new Columbia University study found that climate change may further harm airlines in the future.

Recently, some planes have been grounded due to extreme heat because some aircraft are restricted from flying when temperatures go beyond 49 degrees Celsius. As temperatures increase, the air gets thinner and planes start having trouble generating enough lift to take off.

The study anticipates that by 2080, peak temperatures at airports will increase by 4 to 8 degrees Celsius, leading to higher instances of delayed or canceled flights. This temperature increase is expected to result from the 3-degree-Celsius rise in the Earth’s temperature due to greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition to grounded planes, airlines will also suffer from climate change in other ways. Extreme heat is expected to cause damage to planes. Changes in temperature are also expected to increase turbulence in some airplane routes.

The study also found that rising sea levels may flood some major airports. Small airport runways may also need to be renovated or abandoned as planes will need more space to generate enough lift when temperatures rise.

Solutions to these problems will not come cheap. To enable planes to fly in higher temperatures, engineers may need to build new aircraft with wings that can work in thinner air. During extreme heat, airlines may also experience losses as some planes will need to cut down on cargo or take fewer passengers to reduce weight. More flights may also be rescheduled to take off at a cooler time.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Do you think the problems above (e.g. canceled flights, reduction of cargo and passengers) will affect people’s tendency to use airline transportation? Discuss.
• Should we focus on solving airline-related problems or find ways to improve alternative transportation? Discuss.

Discussion B

• Do you think all industries should be actively involved in fighting global warming? Discuss.
• What industries contribute the most to climate change? What can they do to lessen their impact?