Your Transportation Method and Carbon Footprint

The environmental impacts of transportation have always been an interesting topic and simultaneously an easier subject that individuals underestimate when greenhouse gas emissions of human activities are discussed. This article will analyze the transportation sector and how your means of transportation may affect your carbon footprint.

A busy highway with many cars

Transportation Greenhouse Gases 

According to IEA and World Resources Institute, in 2018, the transportation sector produced 7 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. This is 14.2% of total emissions and is the second largest GHG contributor in the world.

Transportation sector global emissions

With an increasing population, passenger vehicles produce 55% of global CO2 emissions. This chart compares emissions of different transport methods in 1990 and 2019. We can see that the distribution of Cars and Taxis has remained relatively unchanged. Even with more energy-efficient fuel cars, passenger vehicles are still responsible for the most emissions.

Two charts comparing domestic transport methods emissions distribution in 1990 and 2019

How Can We Reduce Emissions?Carbon footprint of travel per kilometer, 2018

Public Transport

Using public transport methods such as trains and buses has always been recommended as a solution for reducing carbon emissions. Using trains and buses for domestic commutes produces almost three times fewer emissions than single-passenger cars and trains.

Public transport is often not as accessible in rural areas, so people must rely on passenger vehicles. Therefore, increasing the number of passengers by carpooling would be the next best thing as emissions will be divided among more passengers.

What about Electric Vehicles (EVs)

EVs, plug-in hybrids and hybrid cars have a much better fuel economy than gasoline cars. Hence they can be fit for solving the transportation problem. Even after including manufacturing and electricity emissions, EVs still produce less greenhouse gas emissions than regular cars. 

In addition, the increasing use of renewable energy sources instead of fossil fuels to produce electricity will reduce the EVs GHG emissions even more. 

Size of Vehicles

Other than modes of transportation, the size of vehicles also affects their carbon dioxide emissions. For instance, in the United States, it is more common to have larger vehicles and large vehicles often consume twice the fuel and produce more GHG emissions in their lifetime. 

Air Travel and GHG emissions 

Obviously, taking a flight has the highest impact on your carbon footprint. However, it is the fastest mean of transportation for long distances. In addition, driving alone for similar distances as domestic flights, such as driving between different states in the US or Europe, produces much more emissions. Hence, flying can be a far better option for your carbon footprint. 

Unavoidable Emissions of Transportation

We understand that some emissions are unavoidable, and in many cases, there is no suitable replacement to reduce emissions. Therefore, we recommend you compensate for those emissions by carbon offsetting. At the end of the day, even small acts of sustainability are much better than taking no action at all. 

A subway station

In conclusion

We can see that the transportation sector is one of the most significant contributors to GHG emissions and a large portion of its emissions is from city cars and small vehicles. In general, opting for public transit when possible and selecting electric vehicles over fuel-powered cars will always be the best way to reduce your carbon footprint significantly.  

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