Aviation and climate change

Experts in airport design and climate science discuss the possibilities for personal and business travel with a radical reduction in greenhouse gases.

June 13, 2018
7:00 p.m.

Palm Springs International Airport, D. Ramey Logan

The Five Thousand Pound Life is the League’s ongoing initiative to rethink our collective future through design in the face of climate change.

Transportation: Connection and its costs

How do we imagine transportation futures at a time of climate change? The Five Thousand Pound Life: Transportation explores the relationships between different forms of mobility and climate change. Looking at air and sea transportation this spring, and land-based transit in the fall, this series will ask scholars and practitioners to attempt to unpack the varying relationships between mobility, energy use, and climate change. We hope to achieve not only deeper understanding of the impact of existing transportation modes, but also projections of less carbon intensive, more inclusive transport futures. Learn more about the Five Thousand Pound Life project.

About tonight's event

The development of air travel has been a primary contributor to globalization by collapsing distance and time. Since the mid-twentieth century, demand has consistently grown as flying has come to be perceived as a right of modern society. Global economies rely on transferring people, goods, and ideas with rapid speed, but what are the environmental costs of air travel?

Modern aviation is propelled by fossil fuel, consuming 5 million barrels of oil a day. The industry contributes to 2.5% of total carbon emissions and could rise to 22% by 2050 as other sectors emit less. Although aircraft are becoming more fuel-efficient and some airlines have introduced carbon offset programs, there is currently no green way to fly 8 million people a day.

As part of The Five Thousand Pound Life: Transportation series, this session will explore the future of air travel in the context of climate change. Experts in climate science, the global tourism economy, and airport design will share their work and ideas on what the possibilities are for personal and business travel with a radical reduction in greenhouse gases.


Designer Jesse LeCavalier and sociologist Daniel Aldana Cohen will serve as moderators and interlocutors for all programs in The Five Thousand Pound Life: Transportation series.

Jesse LeCavalier is a designer, writer, and educator whose work explores the architectural and urban implications of contemporary logistics. He is the author of The Rule of Logistics: Walmart and the Architecture of Fulfillment (University of Minnesota Press, 2016). He is assistant professor of architecture at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and the Daniel Rose Visiting Assistant Professor at the Yale School of Architecture. His work has been published widely, including contributions to CabinetPublic CulturePlacesArt Papers, and Harvard Design Magazine. 

Daniel Aldana Cohen is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, where he directs the Socio-Spatial Climate Collaborative, or (SC)2, which investigates the intersection of social and ecological inequalities in the built environment, with an eye to broad public engagement and public policy. His work focuses on the politics of climate change, investigating the intersections of climate change, political economy, inequalities of race and social class, and political projects of elites and social movements in global cities of the North and South.  His work on the first per capita map of New Yorkers’ carbon footprint was featured in The Nonstop Metropolis: A New York Atlas by Rebecca Solnit and Jonathan Jelly Shapiro.

Robert Chicas, AIA, LEED AP, is the director of HOK’s global Aviation + Transportation practice. He specializes in leading large-scale airport projects and is recognized throughout the industry for his ability to lead multidisciplinary teams through the delivery of complex projects. Robert is a member of the Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA) World Business Partners/Associates Board of Directors.

Kai Flender is an Associate Principal at Grimshaw’s New York studio. Kai’s experience includes a previous tenure at Grimshaw’s London studio where he led the design of the firm’s Zurich Airport terminal project. He brings his expertise in architecture for aviation to Grimshaw’s teams executing the new Terminal 1 at Newark Liberty International Airport and a new master plan for John F. Kennedy International Airport. Kai has worked on a range of projects beyond aviation, including major commercial developments in Berlin and London as well as projects for transport. He recently held a faculty position at the  Monterrey Institute of Higher Education and Technology in Monterrey, Mexico before relocating to New York in mid-2018.

Alice Larkin is Head of the School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering and a Professor in Climate Science & Energy Policy at the University of Manchester, and is part of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. Alice trained as an astrophysicist at the University of Leeds, did her PhD in climate modelling at Imperial College, then worked in science communication. She returned to academia in 2003 joining the interdisciplinary Tyndall Centre to research conflicts between climate change and aviation. In 2008 she was appointed as a lecturer to direct projects on international transport and food supply scenarios within a climate change context, and was Director of Tyndall Manchester between 2013 and 2016.  In addition to a focus on emission budgets for decarbonization, Alice’s core research has been on international transportation, specifically aviation and shipping; she led research on demand-side change in a project called ‘Shipping in Changing Climates’.


This project is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. The Five Thousand Pound Life is also supported by Oldcastle Glass.


Image credit: D. Ramey Logan, Palm Springs International Airport

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