CleanTechnica is the #1 cleantech-focused
website
 in the world.


Cars cars create more global warming pollution than airplanes

Published on August 9th, 2010 | by Zachary Shahan

13

Cars Cause Global Warming More than Planes, Study Finds



cars create more global warming pollution than airplanes

It is rather well-known now that transportation is one of the leading causes of global warming pollution in the world, and especially in the United States. NASA actually reported in February that motor vehicles are the largest net contributor to global warming pollution.

Now, a new scientific finding in the journal Environmental Science & Technology shows that, counter to what most of us believe, driving a car causes more global warming pollution than flying the same distance in a plane.

The study, “Specific Climate Impact of Passenger and Freight Transport,” finds that, in the short run, planes cause more global warming because they create more short-lived warming processes at high altitudes.

However, when you take ‘everything’ — long- and short-lived gases, aerosols and cloud effects from transportation around the world — into account, an average car trip increases global temperatures more than an average flight the same distance.

Furthermore, passenger trains and buses cause even four to five times less global warming pollution than automobiles per passenger mile.

Of course, there are a lot of intricacies (i.e. the specific car or plane or bus used), but this is the general finding.

“As planes fly at high altitudes, their impact on ozone and clouds is disproportionately high, though short lived. Although the exact magnitude is uncertain, the net effect is a strong, short-term, temperature increase,” lead author of the study, Dr. Jens Borken-Kleefeld, said. “Car travel emits more carbon dioxide than air travel per passenger mile. As carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere longer than the other gases, cars have a more harmful impact on climate change in the long term.”

The point that you probably wouldn’t take such long trips by car that you take by plane was not a part of the study and is an important matter to bring up as well.

Nonetheless, this study confirms again that driving is one of the leading ways humans cause global warming. Get out of your car and onto a bike or bus or subway or train today in order to help stop global warming.

via UPI.com

Photo Credit: Jordan Donnelly via flickr

Print Friendly

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he's the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.



  • http://www.interiormoving.com/staff/ Commercial moving rochester

    I didn’t think about that at once.. but if they say . so something right for sure..

  • litebrite

    I have heard that trains can be more efficient than planes as well.

  • bob

    plane.

    The study, “Specific Climate Impact of Passenger and Freight Transport,” finds that, in the short run, planes cause more global warming because they create more short-lived warming processes at high altitudes.

    However, when you take ‘everything’ — long- and short-lived gases, aerosols and cloud effects from transportation around the world — into account, an average car trip increases global temperatures more than an average flight the same distance.
    Clean Technica (http://s.tt/12tnj)

  • bob

    hello bikes are bad

  • Paul3461

    we had global warming long before the first car was ever made otherwise how did the ice age end its all a load of cobblers and just an excuse for greedy governments accross the globe to hike up the price of fuel etc

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mesothelioma/111507465581734 malignant non hodgkins lymphoma

    America needs for being educated properly in the actual sciences.

  • http://www.georgiadriversed.us/ Georgia Drivers Ed

    In Today’s world the most buzz topic is global warning and how to protect ourselves from this. Always awareness of things causes global warning is necessary to reduce at least a small %.

  • http://www.georgia-drivers-education.us/ Drivers Ed Georgia

    Cars Cause Global Warming More than Planes…, trains and buses cause even four to five times less global warming pollution really interesting stats but to use bus or train services we should have proper public transportation system

  • Donald

    @Zachary:

    Considering that the article has nothing to do with bicycles and that the claim is preposterous, I think Sven was just a Hummer-driving troll who hates the world. ;-)

    But seriously, the only cars that have a chance at matching bicycles in efficiency right now are electric-driven clown cars (where the number of clowns exceeds 20). And even then I would be skeptical.

    • http://www.zacharyshahan.com Zachary Shahan

      haha :D

      nice to get some fun in these comments once in awhile :D

      Thanks, Donald

  • Sven

    Cars are actually much more efficient than bicycles.

    • http://www.zacharyshahan.com Zachary Shahan

      re: cars being more efficient than bikes — i have never seen a study show this & have seen several show otherwise. do you have something to share?

  • http://www.aef.org.uk Jeff Gazzard

    Reference the news item above “Study: Cars warm climate more than planes” – err, not quite!

    This European CICERO paper does makes some very interesting and possibly useful observations but its analyses of transport modes on an emissions per kilometre basis where direct substitution is not possible is frankly pointless.

    This report shows us that global car emission volumes are greater than those from air transport; long term car greenhouse gas emissions will therefore have a greater impact on climate change than flying. Nobody disputes this. But it is easier to reduce vehicle emissions than those of kerosene-dependent aircraft – there are no hybrid planes, for instance. And aviation emissions are increasing at a faster pace so overtime, aviation emissions become a much higher percentage of total CO2.

    The headline is actually derived from the study’s emissions per kilometre work – using a low occupancy car (1 person – the driver!) versus a high occupancy large modern aircraft to make per kilometre efficiency claims and comparisons regarding hypothetical long distance travel is unclear and unhelpful. I don’t know anyone who has actually driven across the Atlantic.

    If the study is correct we’d fly coal around and travel on cargo-ships to the US. Where direct modal substitution is concerned, then it’s a useful tool. A ‘real’ example would be Eastern US short-sea shipping vs rail vs lorry vs cargo aircraft.

    Knowing what their g CO2/km is down to an individual aircraft/car/ship type AND is entirely dependent on load factor. A full previous generation MD80 is a much better option under this analysis than a 3/4 full latest generation A320 or B737-800 but thankfully even airlines replace gas-guzzlers in real life.

    The authors conclusion that demand for ALL forms of fossil fuel based travel; car, van, lorry, ships and planes – needs to be minimised urgently is the important take away message from this study. They are not saying flying is better for the environment than car travel!

    Jeff Gazzard

Back to Top ↑