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The Hidden Giant #2: Transportation

Well, this may not be a hidden issue, but I think it is a highly under represented issue. Transportation is the leading contiributor to greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the country, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and is also the fastest growing contributor, at a time when we are supposed to be making a U-turn in our GHG emissions.

When we talk about addressing global climate change, the talk is often about greening our homes, changing our source of energy, and cleaning up industry.

In my previous post, I briefly discussed the critical issue of food in addressing this problem.

In this post, I am bringing to attention the great relevance of transportation and our transportation patterns and habits in addressing this critical concern for our planet and our future generations.

Automobile travel is a major cause of greenhouse gas emissions according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Department of Energy reported that the transportation sector accounts for approximately 33% of GHG emissions in the United States. Approximately 61% of these emissions are from automobiles and light duty trucks. The Department of Energy’s findings put the transportation sector as the largest contributor to GHGs in the country. Unfortunately, it is also the fastest growing contributor according to the DOE’s findings.

Efforts to develop more environmentally benign versions of the automobile are in progress, but viable and effective solutions are yet to materialize. A more immediate and probably more effective solution to these problems is to get people to switch from using the automobile to using more environmentally friendly modes of transportation, such as the bicycle. Traveling via bicycle, arguably the most environmentally friendly mode of travel, does not emit any greenhouse gases or any critical air pollutants. The United States Congress and others (Exploratorium; Lowe; Schinnerer; Whitt & Wilson; Wikipedia) consider bicycling to be the most efficient transportation mode. As one source explained it, on one slice of pizza a person could travel 10 miles by bike, 3.5 miles by foot, and 100 feet in an automobile. Nonetheless, transit and other non-motorized forms of travel are great alternatives as well. These all need to be pursued.

We need to bring this issue to the forefront of our discussions about solutions to global climate change and we need to start living the solutions! It is past the time for excuses, it is time for action. It is time for change to the way we live, the patterns of our daily lives and our environments. And if we don’t make the change, our environment is bound to force the change on us.

Let us lead the way.

Let us make that step, make that U-turn on bicycle, or on foot, or even riding on transit!

Let us be leaders and feel good about it.

Global climate change is the issue of concern facing our world today. The general consensus by climate experts is that we need to aim for a global temperature increase of no more than 2 to 3 degrees Celsius by 2050. (Even at this level, very serious environmental changes and catastrophes are predicted to occur.) To achieve this goal, we in the United States need to reduce GHG emissions to 60-80% below the 1990 level by 2050. We need to make changes now, and getting out of the car is one of them!

*For more on the benefits of bicycling, take a look at this post about bicycling in the city and EcoWordly’s whole series on bicycling and read the second article in this newsletter.

Sources:

Exploratorium. (1997). Human Power. Retrieved on February 11, 2007 from: http://www.exploratorium.com/cycling/humanpower1.html

Lowe, M. (1988). Pedaling Into the Future: Bicycles are the transportation alternative that can relieve the congestion and pollution brought on by automobiles. World Watch, 1: 10-16.

Schinnerer, J. (1997). The Most Efficient Engine. Retrieved on February 11, 2007 from: http://www.eco-living.net/writings/transport/effengine.html

U.S. Congress. (1978). National Energy Conservation Policy Act of 1978. PL 95-619. S. 682.

U.S. Department of the Environment(DOE)/Energy Information Administration’s(EIA) Office of Integrated Analysis and Forecasting—0573. (2006). Emissions of Greenhouse Gases in the United States, 2005. United States Department of the Environment.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (2006). Transportation and Air Quality. Retrieved on October 28, 2006 from: http://www.epa.gov/otaq/.

Wikipedia. (2007). Bicycle. Retrieved on February 11, 2007 from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicycle

Whitt, F. and D. Wilson. (1982). Bicycling Science. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.




17 comments
  1. 7 Environmental Lessons from Living in Europe « J.A.N.U.B.

    […] 1) Live within a pleasant walk or bike ride from where you shop or work (or both), and use these modes of transport! A large percentage of people walk or bike to get groceries or to go to work in Europe. Parking lots at supermarkets and malls are miniature compared to parking lots in the States. A pleasant walk or ride (not just proximity) to your destinations is an important factor — if it isn’t pleasant, it is unlikely your environmental ethic will be stronger than your desire for a comfortable trip. My master’s thesis on bicycling in the United States and the Netherlands confirmed this theory. Of course, there are many hurdles in the system of US cities and how they were built that makes this harder in the US (i.e. it can be hard to find an affordable place in such a location, and it can be hard to find a good route anywhere because of the way we’ve planned around cars), but there are also many opportunities. Often, you can find a back-route and 40% of trips in metropolitan areas in the US are two miles or less, ideal distances for bicycling. For more information on transportation’s environmental importance, read “The Hidden Giant #2: Transportation”. […]

  2. Daily News—01/11/10

    […] autos alone), and the transportation sector is the sector where emissions are growing the fastest (which I mentioned nearly two years ago now). We should be making a U-turn on greenhouse gas emissions, but are struggling even to slow […]

  3. 7 Environmental Lessons from Living in Europe « lightngreen

    […] 1) Live within a pleasant walk or bike ride from where you shop or work (or both), and use these modes of transport! A large percentage of people walk or bike to get groceries or to go to work in Europe. Parking lots at supermarkets and malls are miniature compared to parking lots in the States. A pleasant walk or ride (not just proximity) to your destinations is an important factor — if it isn’t pleasant, it is unlikely your environmental ethic will be stronger than your desire for a comfortable trip. My master’s thesis on bicycling in the United States and the Netherlands confirmed this theory. Of course, there are many hurdles in the system of US cities and how they were built that makes this harder in the US (i.e. it can be hard to find an affordable place in such a location, and it can be hard to find a good route anywhere because of the way we’ve planned around cars), but there are also many opportunities. Often, you can find a back-route and 40% of trips in metropolitan areas in the US are two miles or less, ideal distances for bicycling. For more information on transportation’s environmental importance, read “The Hidden Giant #2: Transportation”. […]

  4. Everyday Life — How to Really Change the Environment « lightngreen

    […] 1) Forget the Car! There are almost always other options for getting around. You may have to change your lifestyle a bit, but more than anything, it is just a matter of changing your mindset about it all. You have to look for the advantages to these other options and forget the outdated ideas that ‘the car gives us freedom’ or makes our life any simpler or easier. For more on this topic, read here. Also, read this article on some of the costs of transportation. […]

  5. A Free Cab Ride that’s Eco-Friendly? It can Happen. : Sustainablog

    […] The Hidden Giant #2: Transportation Tags: eco-friendly, Ecocabs, global warming, traffic pollution, transportation Add a comment or question Recommend this post Share/Email Stumble It green_options321:http://sustainablog.org/2008/07/22/a-free-cab-ride-thats-eco-friendly-it-can-happen/ « Previous post Next post » aj_server = ‘http://rotator.adjuggler.com/servlet/ajrotator/’; aj_tagver = ‘1.0’; aj_zone = ‘green’; aj_adspot = ‘316930’; aj_page = ‘0’; aj_dim =’300787′; aj_ch = ”; aj_ct = ”; aj_kw = ”; aj_pv = true; aj_click = ”; […]

  6. Zachary

    kim,

    sorry about the photo.

    this is a picture from the Netherlands, where nobody wears a helmet. but people bicycle in a completely different way and have a different bicycling environment.

    it is ten times safer to bicycle in the Netherlands.

    for whatever reason, nobody there wears a helmet.

    & i think it is a beautiful picture 🙂

    point taken though — don’t bike without a helmet!

  7. Andrew

    I agree that we definitely need to cut down the levels of emissions from transport, and personally I find driving stressful as hell anyway. But I think we have to acknowledge that the car is currently an essential part of peoples lives and that isn’t going to change soon. I recently put together a guide to greener driving to make people aware of some of the options out there – they’re not perfect solutions, but they can help. Anyone interested can check it out at http://www.envweb.co.uk/guides/greendriving.html

  8. kim

    I am wondering why the person pictured is so happy… saving energy is wonderful, but if you don’t put a helmet on your 2-year-old, your joy may be short lived. What a horrible choice for a photo to go w/ this article.

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