Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Modern Automobile Must Die

If we want to solve climate change, there's no other option.

Cars in tunnel (Credit: Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
So far, Germany has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 27.7 percent—an astonishing achievement for a developed country with a highly developed manufacturing sector.  But with a little over a year left to go, despite dedicating $580 billion toward a low-carbon energy system, the country “is likely to fall short of its goals for reducing harmful carbon-dioxide emissions,” Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday.  And the reason for that may come down not to any elaborate solar industry plans, but something much simpler:  cars.

“At the time they set their goals, they were very ambitious,” Patricia Espinosa, the United Nations’ top climate change official, told Bloomberg.  “What happened was that the industry—particularly the car industry—didn’t come along.” 

Changing the way we power our homes and businesses is certainly important.  But as Germany’s shortfall shows, the only way to achieve these necessary, aggressive emissions reductions to combat global warming is to overhaul the gas-powered automobile and the culture that surrounds it.  The only question left is how to do it.

In 2010 a NASA study declared that automobiles were officially the largest net contributor of climate change pollution in the world.  “Cars, buses, and trucks release pollutants and greenhouse gases that promote warming, while emitting few aerosols that counteract it,” the study read.  “In contrast, the industrial and power sectors release many of the same gases—with a larger contribution to [warming]—but they also emit sulfates and other aerosols that cause cooling by reflecting light and altering clouds.”

In other words the power generation sector may have emitted the most greenhouse gases in total.  But it also released so many sulfates and cooling aerosols that the net impact was less than the automobile industry, according to NASA.

Since then, developed countries have cut back on those cooling aerosols for the purpose of countering regular air pollution, which has likely increased the net climate pollution of the power generation industry.  But according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “collectively, cars, and trucks account for nearly one-fifth of all U.S. emissions,” while “in total, the U.S. transportation sector—which includes cars, trucks, planes, trains, ships, and freight—produces nearly thirty percent of all US global warming emissions ... .”

In fact transportation is now the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States—and it has been for two years, according to an analysis from the Rhodium Group.

Read more at The Modern Automobile Must Die

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