Could you commit to finding alternative modes of transport this Lent?
It is estimated that since pre-industrial times the excessive burning of fossil fuels, such as petrol, for powering cars has contributed to the 0.6°C increase in global temperatures . That’s over one-third of the 1.5°C that scientists warn could cause irreversible consequences. With global consumption patterns remaining as they are, this trend is set to increase over the next few decades.
It is not just the energy that a car uses while driving that affects the environment. The production and destruction of materials adds more and more to the pollution caused by its existence. In fact, research suggests that when you factor in production and disposal, the climate impact of a car almost doubles per mile. Meaning that before and after a car hits the road it is polluting our atmosphere.
While greenhouse gas emissions are falling in the UK, the transport sector remains far behind. Greenhouse gas emissions have fallen 41% since 1990, with emissions from energy suppliers reducing by 57% . However, emissions from transport have only fallen by 2% since 1990 . Goals to ban the sale of all new petrol and diesel vehicles are currently set for 2040, but parliamentary committees are suggesting that this is not soon enough.
There are around 34 million vehicles on our roads, 28 million of which are cars . In 2017, 61% of trips were made by car. This rises to 76% for all trips between 2 and 3 miles, which on average only takes around 5 minutes . Road transport today accounts for 26% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, making it one of the biggest pollutants in the UK . And it’s not just carbon that driving adds to our climate impact. Other pollutants, including nitrous oxide, and pollutants from brake and tyre dust, add to air that is getting dirtier and dirtier . In fact, air pollution from road vehicles costs the UK over £6 billion in health bills every year, and the biodiversity costs of pollution add to the level of ecological degradation occurring globally .
It’s not just driving which affects our carbon footprint. Whilst driving might be our most frequent choice of transport, it’s flying that makes a big stamp on the climate too. On every return flight from London to New York, each passenger produces around 1.2 tonnes of CO2. This produces a carbon footprint that is around the same as an individuals suggested annual personal annual allowance that is necessary to protect the climate .
Whilst major infrastructure changes need to be introduced in order to support a transition to a lower carbon transport system – such as a greater number of car charging points being created, development of biofuels for planes and technological development to enable more accessible electric vehicles – it is undeniable that change needs to happen rapidly.
So, what changes can you make?
Getting out of the driving seat for the majority of your regular journeys can make a huge difference. Maybe you can even think about how you can use public transport for the longer journeys you have to make? Train travel has the advantage often getting you to your destination far quicker than driving.
If you live in an area where public transport is infrequent or unreliable, lift sharing may be a good alternative option, reducing your own carbon footprint and that of someone else too! Whilst it does take some coordination, it’s a wonderful opportunity to get to know fellow commuters. There are plenty of schemes around the country that help to set this up.
You could start by reviewing the regular journeys you make. How often do you get in the car when you could walk? Which journeys could be replaced by bus? Could any of your air travel be replaced by train?
For some people, giving up the car just isn’t an option. This might be because of mobility issues, family commitments, or the public transport links in your area. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t review the impact of your travel. Exploring carbon offsetting might be a good alternative for you, to help you balance the carbon impact of your transport.
You can find out more here: https://www.climatestewards.org/offset/
What difference will this really make?
Driving a car emits, on average, about 271 g CO2 per kilometre . Whereas, in total, riding a bike accounts for only about 21g ofCO2 emissions per kilometre .
If you were to replace a single car journey with taking the bus, on average you would half the CO2 emissions you would have produced by driving .
And if you were to replace a 40-mile round trip in the car with travel by train on 6 occasions during Lent, you would save around 56kg of CO2 .
Changing the way we travel isn’t just about practicalities, but also how we steward our time. Taking up alternative forms of transport means adding extra time onto each journey, and going at a slower pace as we do so. This might stop a lot of us from making the switch, as time is precious and often scarce, but could also present unexpected opportunities to look more carefully at how we steward our time.
If you’d like to find out more about the climate impact of travelling, you can explore the articles and websites below:
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