Commercial aviation is expected to swell in worldwide popularity during the first half of the 21st century, writes Christina Nuñez of National Geographic, and with this growth comes the promise of a larger carbon footprint:

"Airplanes sent about 700 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air in 2013, an amount set to more than triple by 2050. Yet efforts to regulate those emissions, as many countries do for cars and trucks, remained in a holding pattern for years — until now."

With regulations firmly placed upon the energy and automotive sector, the green movement has set its sights on aviation. As Nuñez notes, there is considerable pressure on the United States government, the United Nations, and the European Union to establish standards and rules for limiting airplane emissions. Environmental groups want authorities to nudge aerospace companies to further develop biofuels. Carbon taxes remain on the table as well.

It's not just aircraft manufacturers that could soon be facing regulations. Airlines are likely to be pressured into boosting fuel efficiency through better practices:

"Aside from the aircraft themselves, airlines can also improve how flights are fueled, flown, and routed. In four years of ranking U.S. airlines on fuel efficiency, [Dan] Rutherford says his group has found a consistent gap of about 26 percent between the best and the worst. (Alaska Airlines consistently scores at the top of the ranking, while American hovers at the bottom.)" 

Take a look at the piece linked below for more information on potential environmental regulations.

Read more at National Geographic.

In the Big Think interview below from 2010, aerospace engineer Burt Rutan imagines a future filled with taxi-like miniplanes:

Photo credit: Jon Nightingale / Shutterstock