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How does transportation affect climate change?

Updated: Aug 9, 2021

Recently I stumbled upon a clip from a Joe Rogan Experience podcast which left me rather amused. "I don't believe in climate change," was the stance of Joe's guest on the episode at issue, who was an American conservative author and activist.

According to BBC Future, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has reached a record level of 417 parts per million in May 2020. The last time CO2 level exceeding 400ppm was about four million years ago when the global temperatures was 2-4 degrees Celsius higher and sea levels were 10-25 meters higher than they are now!

The IPCC report of 2018 had stated that the planet is on course to exceed its carbon budget in 12 years. And even to this day, we are very much on track to realize that cataclysmic checkpoint. There is no point in denying that climate health has been hitting the skids since the beginning of the industrial era.

Mr. DiCaprio speaking at the UN Climate Summit seven years ago, hit the nail on the head when he said, " None of this is rhetoric. None of this is hysteria. It is a fact."

So the question to confront then becomes,

What do we do about it?

Believe it or not, the key to solving this crisis has been staring right at us for so long, yet most of us still choose to look the other way. Globally, the transportation sector accounts for between 15 and 20 per cent of carbon emissions each year. Also, the surface transportation system accounts for over 85 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector. The rapid rise of these emissions contributes significantly to the planet heating up at a worrying rate lately.

Public transport and climate change

A long term systematic shift in our travelling routines towards the public modes of transport goes a long way in bringing down the emission levels of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, thereby undoing the risks posed by climate change.

When compared to private vehicles, public transportation has always been far more efficient at transporting people.

Under a survey conducted by the American Public Transportation Association, all evidence pointed towards the fact that by reducing the growth in vehicle miles of travel, easing congestion and supporting more efficient land use patterns, public transportation can reduce harmful carbon emissions exponentially.

The choice of getting around by utilizing mass transit systems over personal vehicle transportation is something we should all embrace while we still have a Lilliputian chance to reverse the tide of this undesirable change. If you have already bought into the habit of using local bus services/ trains/ monorails rather than driving your private vehicle for daily travel, then asking your family members and colleagues to adopt the same practice is a sine qua non.

According to KCATA, a person who opts for travelling by bus could save 30% of CO2 emissions by eliminating an extra car on the road. The private vehicle contributes the most towards the carbon footprint of a household, and the decision to switch to public transport should therefore be a no brainer.

Last year in the country, amidst the global pandemic and economic slowdown, something unbelievable had happened. March of 2020 saw the first year-on-year reduction in India's CO2 emission in four decades. The CO2 emissions fell by an estimated 15% during March, which dropped even further by late April. The significance of this event is substantial.

How do we start?

By taking steps to further lower carbon emissions, we can take advantage of this rare, albeit adventitious, reduction in emissions. And the first step towards that has to be the most effective one - the mass shift from private vehicle transit system to the public mode of transportation.

Like to know more? Let's move smarter

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