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The average car in the U.S. spews out 10,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from its tailpipe each year, accounting for close to a quarter of the country's entire CO2 output. And while the U.S. owns 30 percent of the world's automobiles, its drivers produce 45 percent of the world's auto-related CO2 emissions.[1]


Transportation can play a large role in reducing carbon emissions globally in order to save the planet from climate change. Considering it is such a broad topic, it has the potential to make a large impact. Primarily, the goal is to change transportation habits in order to achieve a more sufficient and long-lasting environment. Transportation covers many topics such as: efficiency of cars, trains, planes, hybrid cars, public transportation, and overall mindset of drivers today and in the future. By considering all of these components, and by striving to achieve manageable adjustments within each topic, we can drastically reduce our carbon emissions. Out of all the countries in the world, the United States’ transportation accounts for five percent of the total carbon emissions. Also, “trends in the U.S. transportation sector tend to be twenty years ahead of those in other industrialized countries, and the U.S. automotive industry is a key player in the world market-and thus in a position to initiate changes and become a model of best practice”.[2]

Since the United States is fortunate enough to have both the correct personnel and the correct supplies to make transportation more efficient, it is important to set an example so that other industrialized countries can also join in on the quest towards climate change.

Facts About the Problem

- U.S. greenhouse gases (GHGs) from transportation represent 33% of total U.S. GHG emissions.

- Road transport was responsible for nearly 10% of global emissions.

- GHG emissions from mobile sources have grown 29% from 1990 to 2004, an average annual compound growth rate of almost 2.0 percent. - Automobiles and light trucks are the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions from mobile sources and together represent more than about 60% of total mobile source greenhouse gas emissions

- Eighty percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions come from the use of coal and petroleum fuels. Although the industrial sector is the largest energy consumer (including direct fuel use and purchased electricity), the transportation sector emits more carbon dioxide because of its near complete dependence on petroleum fuels. [3]

- World transport C02 emissions are as follows: Aviation: 12%, Maritime: 7%, Light-Duty Road Vehicles: 45%, Heavy-Duty Road Vehicles: 30%, and Rail/Inland Water: 6%.[4]


One of the most important factors when trying to institute a change in transportation is the general mindset of drivers, consumers, travelers, etc. Everyone needs to be aware of the impact they are leaving on the environment every time they start the engine of a car, step onto an airplane, or travel on a train. It is pertinent to educate drivers that every time they start their engine they are polluting the air with the main car emissions which are: nitrogen gas, carbon dioxide, and water vapor. We need to prove to people the importance of carpooling to save gas, or taking public modes of transportation regularly. A study done in 2005 portrayed that “if all travel that occurred on public transportation were to be completed instead in private vehicles, this would have resulted in an additional 16.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.” [5] With this information, we have tangible information and results of our efforts to reduce carbon emissions. If we continue to take advantage of all the public modes of transportation, the amount of carbon dioxide that we are emitting into the air will continue to decrease. Bradley, M.J. "Comparison of Energy Use and Different CO2 Emissions From Different Transportation Modes." May 2007. American Bus Association. 29 Oct. 2008 <http://>.

Another solution to carbon emissions resulting from transportation is the advancing technology options. We now have a variety of hybrid cars and prius’ that contribute substantially to lowering carbon emissions. “2008 Prius 48 miles per US gallon for city driving, 45 miles per US gallon for highway driving, 46 miles per US gallon combined; 2001 Prius 42 miles per US gallon city, 41 miles per US highway. [6] In the circumstance where a family can afford one of these cars, one should strongly consider purchasing a Prius. Also the Prius is the most efficient car available in the U.S. in 2008, based on the official rating.

Airplane transportation is also a large contributer to one’s carbon footprint. “There is a growing realisation that climate change is a reality and not a myth. Air travel is now the fastest-growing contributor to global warming, and avoiding a flight when there are easy alternatives is probably the biggest single thing that any individual can do to cut their carbon footprint and limit their own impact on the environment.” Another negative factor of an airplane’s emissions is that “Airliners emit their CO2 directly into the upper atmosphere, where it is likely to do over twice the damage (an estimated 2.7 times the damage, in fact) of the same quantity of CO2 emitted at ground level.” [7] The last


A study done in February of 2008 compared eight different types of transportation. These eight types were: A solo driver in an SUV, a solo driver in a car, an airplane, a solo driver in a prius, a three-person carpool, a transit bus three-quarters full, a train with fifty passengers per car, and a person who walks or bikes. The table below portrays that the most efficient way of commuting is by walking or biking because no CO2 is emitted. The most harmful way of transportation is a solo driver in an SUV, which emits 1.6 pounds of CO2 per mile. [8] (still working on embedding image)

This table also portrays that public transportation such as trains or buses is significantly more energy efficient than cars and airplanes. An example of this is in a study done in 2005 that states that “public transportation reduced CO2 emissions by 6.9 million metric tonnes. If current public transportation riders were to use personal vehicles instead of transit they would generate 16.2 million metric tonnes of CO2.” [9] Overall, people need to start seriously considering decreasing their driving mileage. For those who can simply not achieve this, they need to think about purchasing a hybrid car or a prius. Furthermore, public transportation, such as trains or buses, instead of driving can continue to help us decrease our CO2 emissions. In order for us to save the planet and cut back our greenhouse gases, we need to take a large contributor, such as transportation and start putting to action some of the knowledge we have gained in learning how to reduce our CO2 emissions.

  1. Chameides, Dave. "Help the Planet: Offset Your Car's Emissions." 20 Feb. 2007. Edmunds. <http://>.
  2. Fergusson, Malcolm, and Ian Skinner. "Greening transportation." Environment 41.1 (Jan-Feb 1999): 24(4). Academic OneFile. Gale. Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT. 2 Nov. 2008 <>.
  3. ."EIA- Greenhouse Gases, Climate Change, and Energy." Energy Information Administration. May 2008. Official Energy Statistics from the U.S. Government. 31 Oct. 2008 <http://>.
  4. ."8.3.2 Ambient Factors." IPCC Special Reports on Climate Change. Nov. 2001. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 1 Nov. 2008 <http://>.
  5. Davis, Todd, and Monica Hale. "Public Transportation's Contribution to U.S. Greenhouse Gas Reduction." APTA. Sept. 2007. 31 Oct. 2008 <http://>.
  6. "Gas Mileage of 2008 Toyota Prius." Fuel Economy.Gov. U.S. Department of Energy. 30 Oct. 2008 <http://>.
  7. "CO2 Emissions: Train versus Plane." CO2 emissions and global warming. Seat61. 30 Oct. 2008 <http://>.
  8. "How Low-Carbon Can You Go: The Transportation Ranking." Energy and Climate. 2008. Sightline Institution. 31 Oct. 2008 <http://>.
  9. Davis, Todd, and Monica Hale. "Public Transportation's Contribution to U.S. Greenhouse Gas Reduction." APTA. Sept. 2007. 31 Oct. 2008 <http://>.