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Cars

Published on February 23rd, 2010 | by Zachary Shahan

12

NASA Says: Automobiles Largest Net Climate Change Culprit

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February 23rd, 2010 by Zachary Shahan 

Nearly two years ago, I wrote that transportation was “the leading contiributor to greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the country, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and… the fastest growing contributor.”

Now, in other terms and looking at additional factors, NASA has determined that automobiles are the largest net contributor to climate change pollution.

In other words, when you take into account the climate change (or global warming) gases automobiles emit as well as gases they emit that have a cooling effect, automobiles are the largest contributor to climate change, followed by 2) burning of household biofuels (i.e. wood and animal dung) and 3) raising livestock.

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The NASA study reports:

“Cars, buses, and trucks release pollutants and greenhouse gases that promote warming, while emitting few aerosols that counteract it. In contrast, the industrial and power sectors release many of the same gases—with a larger contribution to radiative forcing—but they also emit sulfates and other aerosols that cause cooling by reflecting light and altering clouds…

In their analysis, motor vehicles emerged as the greatest net contributor to atmospheric warming now and in the near term, with a total radiative forcing of 199 mWm-2 in 2020. The researchers found that the burning of household biofuels—primarily wood and animal dung for home heating and cooking—contribute the second most warming. And raising livestock, particularly methane-producing cattle, contribute the third most. The industrial sector releases such a high proportion of sulfates and other cooling aerosols that it actually contributes a significant amount of cooling to the system. And biomass burning—which occurs mainly as a result of tropical forest fires, deforestation, savannah and shrub fires—emits large amounts of organic carbon particles that block solar radiation.”

Now, we all know a lot of work is going into creating greener cars. However, as someone trained in sustainable urban planning, I think getting out of the automobile habit altogether would be a great step forward for our society and the world. It would address this #1 climate change (and ocean acidification) concern, but it would also help address obesity tremendously, the economy, and other things. As Alex Steffen of Worldchanging writes, “we already know that the way to solve the problem of cars is to build better cities.”

I think we should take this opportunity to consider how we could live without cars, how we could help create a transformation of our transportation and urban systems. This is one of the first steps we need to take to address critical societal concerns of each the environment, health and the economy.

via Worldchanging

Related Stories:

1) Transportation in 2010

2) High-Speed Rail for the US, Finally!

3) #1 Amsterdam, the Netherlands: Great Bicycle City Photo Tour

Image Credit: Atwater Village Newbie via flickr under a CC license

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About the Author

spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as the director/chief editor. Otherwise, he's probably enthusiastically fulfilling his duties as the director/editor of Solar Love, EV Obsession, Planetsave, or Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and wind energy expert. If you would like him to speak at a related conference or event, connect with him via social media. You can connect with Zach on any popular social networking site you like. Links to all of his main social media profiles are on ZacharyShahan.com.



  • Charles Stewart Lee

    Available NASA developed technology can significantly reduce the amount of automobile sourced emissions by simple retrofit procedure.

    Fuel Efficiency gains are in the 10-40% range.

    Carbon Monoxide, HydroCarbons, Nox, Sox emissions reductions are in the 70-99% range.

  • Charles Stewart Lee

    Available NASA developed technology can significantly reduce the amount of automobile sourced emissions by simple retrofit procedure.

    Fuel Efficiency gains are in the 10-40% range.

    Carbon Monoxide, HydroCarbons, Nox, Sox emissions reductions are in the 70-99% range.

  • Charles Stewart Lee

    Available NASA developed technology can significantly reduce the amount of automobile sourced emissions by simple retrofit procedure.

    Fuel Efficiency gains are in the 10-40% range.

    Carbon Monoxide, HydroCarbons, Nox, Sox emissions reductions are in the 70-99% range.

  • LUCAS ROSARIO

    Automobiles contribute to 25% of pollution in developed countries as well as the citizens health is badly affected.

    The single solution is to grow non edible oil seed bearing trees in developing countries and use the oil to produce biodiesel in developed countries.

    This is a climate change solution as well as meet the Millennium Developmet Goals.

    All this not because we want to reduce pollution but because it is a good business proposal where the farmer, the promoter and the governments make money.

  • http://www.citizenshipper.com Richard Obousy

    Hey Zach,

    I noticed that you are writing on matters of carbon emissions and transportation technology. I’m writing to let you know about our Green Shipping company, whos aim is to reduce CO2 output by 149 million tons annually.

    I’m the founder of a novel Houston based ‘Green Shipping and Transportation’ company and I’m very interested in seeing if you would be interested in featuring a story about our Green shipping movement.

    We recently featured in a Discovery News article which you can read here:

    http://news.discovery.com/tech/package-delivery-gains-citizen-shippers.html

    In a nutshell, members can login to our site, and list something they need shipped either locally or long distance. Our site then matches them with empty trucks returning from a previous delivery.

    Because the drivers are all going driving somewhere anyway, this reduces CO2 emissions, and also mitigates the economic impact of wasted fuel used for the journey.

    According to our research, 29% of trucks on US roads travel empty. Annualy, this accounts for:

    149 Million Tons of Carbon needlessly emitted into the atmostphere.

    $30 Billion in wasted fuel costs.

    We believe that CitizenShipper.com can make a difference and we’d be really grateful for any exposure you could provide us.

    I think this would make a really interesting story for your blog. Please take a look at http://www.citizenshipper.com.

    I hope to hear from you soon.

    With regards,

    Richard

  • http://www.citizenshipper.com Richard Obousy

    Hey Zach,

    I noticed that you are writing on matters of carbon emissions and transportation technology. I’m writing to let you know about our Green Shipping company, whos aim is to reduce CO2 output by 149 million tons annually.

    I’m the founder of a novel Houston based ‘Green Shipping and Transportation’ company and I’m very interested in seeing if you would be interested in featuring a story about our Green shipping movement.

    We recently featured in a Discovery News article which you can read here:

    http://news.discovery.com/tech/package-delivery-gains-citizen-shippers.html

    In a nutshell, members can login to our site, and list something they need shipped either locally or long distance. Our site then matches them with empty trucks returning from a previous delivery.

    Because the drivers are all going driving somewhere anyway, this reduces CO2 emissions, and also mitigates the economic impact of wasted fuel used for the journey.

    According to our research, 29% of trucks on US roads travel empty. Annualy, this accounts for:

    149 Million Tons of Carbon needlessly emitted into the atmostphere.

    $30 Billion in wasted fuel costs.

    We believe that CitizenShipper.com can make a difference and we’d be really grateful for any exposure you could provide us.

    I think this would make a really interesting story for your blog. Please take a look at http://www.citizenshipper.com.

    I hope to hear from you soon.

    With regards,

    Richard

  • http://www.citizenshipper.com Richard Obousy

    Hey Zach,

    I noticed that you are writing on matters of carbon emissions and transportation technology. I’m writing to let you know about our Green Shipping company, whos aim is to reduce CO2 output by 149 million tons annually.

    I’m the founder of a novel Houston based ‘Green Shipping and Transportation’ company and I’m very interested in seeing if you would be interested in featuring a story about our Green shipping movement.

    We recently featured in a Discovery News article which you can read here:

    http://news.discovery.com/tech/package-delivery-gains-citizen-shippers.html

    In a nutshell, members can login to our site, and list something they need shipped either locally or long distance. Our site then matches them with empty trucks returning from a previous delivery.

    Because the drivers are all going driving somewhere anyway, this reduces CO2 emissions, and also mitigates the economic impact of wasted fuel used for the journey.

    According to our research, 29% of trucks on US roads travel empty. Annualy, this accounts for:

    149 Million Tons of Carbon needlessly emitted into the atmostphere.

    $30 Billion in wasted fuel costs.

    We believe that CitizenShipper.com can make a difference and we’d be really grateful for any exposure you could provide us.

    I think this would make a really interesting story for your blog. Please take a look at http://www.citizenshipper.com.

    I hope to hear from you soon.

    With regards,

    Richard

  • http://www.motornature.com/ elji

    Another report to make drivers feel guilty, please let me correct it: cars are not ruining the planet, it’s their use of fossil fuels that do.

    If all cars were running on solar energy, they would be climate neutral. Our goal shall be to make cars able to run on renewables, not to give up motorized individual transport.

  • http://www.motornature.com/ elji

    Another report to make drivers feel guilty, please let me correct it: cars are not ruining the planet, it’s their use of fossil fuels that do.

    If all cars were running on solar energy, they would be climate neutral. Our goal shall be to make cars able to run on renewables, not to give up motorized individual transport.

  • Eletruk

    Add to that the energy taken to create the infrastructure that allows the number of ICEs on the road, and the contribution to climate change (Global Weirding) is even greater.

  • Eletruk

    Add to that the energy taken to create the infrastructure that allows the number of ICEs on the road, and the contribution to climate change (Global Weirding) is even greater.

  • Eletruk

    Add to that the energy taken to create the infrastructure that allows the number of ICEs on the road, and the contribution to climate change (Global Weirding) is even greater.

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