Booming airline industry gives nod to climate change

The world’s biggest air show opens in France today, and the commercial airline industry is all hepped up on salted peanuts: after two years in the red, it’s expected to reap $5 billion in profits this year. Both Boeing and Airbus announced billions of dollars of aircraft orders today, and the industry — which spews about 2 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions — shows no signs of slowing down. It does, however, show signs of recognizing its impacts. Last week, Airbus exec Louis Gallois pledged a 25 percent increase in R&D spending with an eye toward a 50 percent cut in carbon emissions from 2000 levels by 2020. European Union officials proposed a $2.1 billion “Clean Sky” program that would cut emissions 20 to 40 percent and reduce jet noise. Aircraft companies are saving fuel by replacing aluminum with lighter-weight plastic, and just yesterday, Boeing exec Scott Carson said — well, he said emissions were the fault of engine makers, not his company. But at least he sees the problem.