Transportation is a necessity that the world cannot survive without. Trade, supply chains, employees’ commute, kids going to school, and basically all errands we run as people depend on transportation. But the transportation sector that has for a long time contributed to environmental degradation. Fossil-fuel burning automobiles, for example, generate tons of carbon dioxide and other climate-changing pollutants every day around the world.
Our obligation as human beings, therefore, is to find a way of reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that our vehicles release, especially in our cities, without limiting our mobility. We need to lower our reliance on fossil fuels by adopting transportation solutions that are more environmentally friendly. Here are 5 transportation alternatives that could help combat climate change:
1. Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI)
Between the three main modes of transport- road, air, and water, ships are the most energy-efficient vessels. Well, that is for as long as vessels that use crude oil refining by-products are concerned. Their carbon footprint is minimal, but it is damaging to our environment nonetheless. Their combustion of maritime fuel generates black carbon emissions that affect sea life.
The EEDI is a ship design standard that was approved in 2011, and that requires ship manufacturers and designers to deliver more energy-efficient ships. Experts say that the move has the potential to reduce shipping carbon footprint gradually to over 50% in 2050.
The globally-binding design has dictated how ships are designed since 2013. Ships that will be designed after 2025 are expected to be 30% more energy efficient compared the ones that existed before EEDI came to force.
Substituting automobiles with bikes would reverse climate change and, consequently, save the Earth. Experts affiliated to the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy released a study in 2015 that explained how greenhouse gas emissions would reduce by over 11% if 20% of the world ditches cars for bicycles by 2050.
But then, major changes have to be affected both in terms of city planning and bike designs in order to encourage more people to commute by bicycles. For example, cities have to build protected bike lanes in order to guarantee the safety of riders.
There also needs to be parking spaces dedicated for bikes; spaces that guarantee the security of all bikes. A form of bike licensing can also be introduced to make bikers more responsible and to reduce bike theft in our cities.
Beyond safety, many people are discouraged from riding to work because of the distance. It is practically illogical for anyone to bike to work 5 miles away, 10 miles to and fro, using a vehicle that can barely do 3 miles per hour. However, with the introduction of the pedal-assisted bike, the bike with a motor kit, the distance problem has partly been addressed.
Bikers can now do 5 miles an hour using these bikes and that has made it possible for commuters who live within a 5-mile radius from their workplaces to ride to work. Designers need to improve on the ebike to make it ideal for people who do more than 5 miles a day.
3. Electric cars
Electric vehicles (EVs) reduce transportation carbon footprint by using batteries, instead of gasoline, to power their engines. How does this combat climate change?
Most car-related pollution occurs in the form of direct emissions, especially nitrogen gas and carbon dioxide. Nitrogen gas is part of a wider web of pollutants known as smog-forming pollutants, while carbon dioxide is the most common of greenhouse gases.
These emissions occur through three avenues: The major one is the tailpipe, the other avenue is evaporation that happens within the fuel system, and at the pump during the fueling process. That is to mean that even though driving a gasoline-powered car is what causes the most damage, the very existence of gasoline in your life, even when the car is parked in the driveway, is also very harmful to the quality of the air you breathe. On top of not producing any direct emissions, electric vehicles significantly minimize gasoline production, and that by itself is a win for the environment.
EVs are a bit pricier than gasoline-powered vehicles, both to buy and maintain. More people would buy EVs if car manufacturers were to find a way of lowering battery costs and increasing battery range. You know, make electric cars affordable to average income earners. The most viable option as of now is the plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) that use both a gasoline engine and an electric motor.
The motor improves their efficiency and, consequently, they produce lesser tailpipe emissions compared to the conventional gasoline engines most of us use, but that is still not good enough.
Instead of people commuting in their own cars, it is more climate-conscious to carpool (share a car) with your colleagues or neighbors. Imagine a family of 5 people using one car to get to the city instead of each member driving their own cars. That would save the family over 80% of gas money. Besides, carpooling to work means less wear and tear on your vehicle, reduced parking fees, and lesser mileage on your car. All these factors make carpooling a smart choice for your wallet.
Now imagine if 5 neighbors shared one car to and from their workplaces. That would reduce carbon emissions in their world by 80%. Let’s consider other stats:
- An average American spends at least 430 hours in a car every year, which translates to about 18 days. If you share a ride with 4 more people, you will save the world an equivalent of 72 days’ carbon emissions.
- If you divide 365 by 72 days, you realize that sharing a ride with 4 other people would take you only about 5 years to have saved the world a whole year worth of carbon emissions. According to RideShare, an average passenger car consumes 550 gallons of while an average SUV consumes 915 gallons of gasoline per year. An average of the two would be about 730 gallons.
- A gallon of gasoline precipitate about 20 pounds of carbon dioxide, which means that the 730 gallons you saved, by extension, reduced carbon emission by almost 15,000 pounds within one year. That figure becomes even more significant when you factor in other pollutants such as hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide.
If you must drive a gasoline-powered car, it is best that you adopt eco-friendly driving methods. How?
- Dirt often accumulates in a car’s engine as it gets older, lowering the car’s performance and multiplying the amount of its harmful emissions. You can clean the deposits out by adding a cleaning agent into the fuel system.
- Avoid hard acceleration and braking, and idling.
- Always use the correct grade of oil and change it regularly.
- Change air filters regularly to prevent deposits’ build up in the engine.
- Replace your car if it is too old.
All these changes will reduce the amount of fuel your car consumes and consequently save you money and save the world from excess carbon emissions.
Making small changes to how you commute and utilize different vehicles can reduce your carbon footprint by a huge percentage. But the question is: Are you ready to make the changes? The answer should be yes because we all must combine efforts to combat climate change.
Mother Earth is already feeling the effects of global warming, particularly with the many drought seasons, severe heat waves, and more prevalent hurricanes over the recent past. This trend is only going to worsen if you don’t play your part in reversing the adverse effects of climate change.