Published on August 9th, 2010 | by Zachary Shahan13
Cars Cause Global Warming More than Planes, Study Finds
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.
Photo Credit: Jordan Donnelly via flickr