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Published on November 4th, 2019 | by Cynthia Shahan

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The Fastest Growing Source of Global Emissions: Transport

November 4th, 2019 by  


The multidimensional aspects of a situation are sometimes quite hard to grasp. Take a situation that involves one’s health, one’s transit, and commuting habits. How does travel, whether around the neighborhood, to the store, to visit family, or to commute to a job matter? It matters quite a bit in coexistence.

This week we are reading and hearing (again) about fires. Or we are trying to survive them. As with worsening natural disasters, air pollution, and many other things, we are part of a connected cycle of coexistence that is spinning quickly. Climate change is contributing to a constant worsening of fires in California and elsewhere.

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#Regram #RG @cnnclimate: Spurred by historic winds, firefighters in California are battling more than a dozen blazes across the state, including the Tick and Getty Fires in Southern California and the Kincade Fire in Northern California. The fires have displaced hundreds of thousands of people and caused power outages in parts of the state. Scientists say climate change is a factor in the increasing size of California’s wildfires over the past 50 years. “If you don’t believe climate change is happening, talk to a firefighter,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told CNN on Monday. (📸: John Edelson/AFP/Getty Images, Philip Pacheco/AFP/Getty Images, Justin Sullivan/Getty Images, Neal Waters/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

A post shared by Leonardo DiCaprio (@leonardodicaprio) on

In the film The Human Element, a particular quote impressed me: “The new fires that we’re seeing now tend to be larger, more intense.” Stephen Pyne, professor Arizona State University, continues: “I think we are starting to understand that this began a long time ago — when the Earth’s keystone species, which is us, changed fundamentally its combustion habits.”

Is that related to how we travel?

Oh yes, the facts are there. Scientists acknowledge it, and the environmentally concerned take steps towards lighter footprints. Responsible citizens work for policy changes, and eco-activists alert us daily of the problem.

In the World Resource Institute article “Everything You Need to Know About the Fastest-Growing Source of Global Emissions,” Shiying Wang reports:

Transport emissions — which primarily involve road, rail, air and marine transportation — account for over 24% of global CO2 emissions in 2016. They’re also expected to grow at a faster rate than that from any other sector, posing a major challenge to efforts to reduce emissions in line with the Paris Agreement and other global goals. …

1. How big a problem are emissions from transport?

Emissions from the transport sector are a major contributor to climate change — about 14% of annual emissions (including non-CO2 gases) and around a quarter of CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels.

Even more concerning: At a time when global emissions need to be going down, transport emissions are on the rise, with improvements in vehicle efficiency more than offset by greater overall volume of travel.

Take the United States as an example. After experiencing a decline in transport-related emissions from their peak in 2005, emissions plateaued and have now risen every year since 2012. In 2016, the transport sector surpassed the electric power industry as the single greatest U.S. emitter of GHGs for the first time.

2. Where do transport emissions come from?

In terms of transport modes, 72% of global transport emissions come from road vehicles, which accounted for 80% of the rise in emissions from 1970-2010.

Emissions have also increased in other transport modes, such as international aviation, domestic aviation and international and coastal shipping. The main exception is railways; powered by a significant share of electricity, rail emissions have actually declined.

3. Which countries are responsible for the most transport emissions?

The 10 countries with the largest transportation emissions in 2014 were (in descending order): United States, China, Russia, India, Brazil, Japan, Canada, Germany, Mexico and Iran. Together these countries contributed 53% of global transport emissions in 2014.

Wang also discussed transportation’s energy sources and how we can reduce our emissions from transport. Solutions include bicycling more, better city design to enable bicycling and transit, and electrification of road transport, of course. Read more here.

Limiting emissions with electric cars, plugging in. Photo by Zach Shahan | CleanTechnica

Back to the fires, also see: “3 Datasets Monitor the Location of Fires and Where They Might Spread.” 
 

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About the Author

Cynthia Shahan started writing by doing research as a social cultural and sometimes medical anthropology thinker. She studied and practiced both Waldorf education, and Montessori education. Eventually becoming an organic farmer, licensed AP, and mother of four unconditionally loving spirits, teachers, and environmentally conscious beings born with spiritual insights and ethics beyond this world. (She was able to advance more in this way led by her children.)



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