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Climate Change Part 3: Should we drive, fly or take a train?

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There are many ways to go from point A to point B, but the mode of transport you choose depends on the kind of journey you make, which can have a significant impact on our planet.

Different modes of transport have different impacts on greenhouse gas emission; the image below gives a brief indication of this impact.

According to the images above, we can see that road transportation constitutes about 80% of all CO2 emissions in the transportation sector, followed by air transportation which accounts for about 13%.

The aviation sector contributes about 2% of the world's global carbon emissions, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). However, projections show that CO2 emissions from international aviation will triple under business as usual by 2050.

Looking through these figures, we can see that majority of our efforts needs to be focused toward reducing emissions levels from road transportation, either by electric or hydrogen-powered vehicles, supported by the required infrastructure. It is also vital to ensure the work needed to reduce emission from air transportation produce results.

The work required to reduce road induced transport emissions to meet net-zero emission by 2050 is enormous and requires the participation of everyone, particularly the government.

"Public transport and active travel will be the natural first choice for our daily activities. We will use our cars less and be able to rely on a convenient, cost-effective and coherent public transport network."

Grant Shapps (UK transport secretary)

It seems like the government is starting to take climate change seriously according to statements made by the UK transport secretary. However, it is essential to note that these statements were made pre COVID 19. So, the priority with government funds now is to boost and stimulate economic growth, which might mean redirecting funds previously destined to help tackle climate change.

What can we do to help individually?

Active transport has been mentioned a few times as being part of the solution to reducing our transportation emission. This mode of transport involves typically walking, cycling or if you are that fancy or brave, using a scooter for shorter distances.

A shift in emphasis away from driving - where possible - could improve people's health, create better places to reside and travel in, and also promote clean economic growth.

In reality, walking or cycling is great during hot summer days but not as pleasant during cold winter days. However, for us to play our part in reducing emissions, for those shorter distances, we can make it possible by ensuring we wrap up very warm before stepping out during cold winter days.

 

Future of driving

So, what does the future hold with regards to which type of cars would help deal with climate change? Well, some campaigns have suggested that the government needs to start by reducing the sales of big massive SUV's perhaps through higher taxes, which require more fuel than smaller vehicles and create a higher demand for materials – even though powered by electricity.

We tend to agree with this, as it does make sense because of the more prominent a vehicle, the more energy needed to manufacture as well as power the car. The chart below verifies this observation as it shows the lorry as the least efficient of all vehicles.

The UK government also recently announced the ban of petrol, diesel and hybrid cars by 2035, in a bid to hit zero-carbon emissions. This announcement only means the government is pushing for an increase in the adoption of electric or hydrogen-powered vehicles. To achieve this target, we believe the government will also need to drive infrastructural change concerning the powering and maintenance of these vehicles. This drive can be made possible by making available more electric charging station as well as hydrogen fueling stations.

 

In conclusion, choosing less polluting ways to travel seems like a no-brainer option, but we should also look at reducing our travelling needs where we can. For example, a survey carried out by more than 2000 people in the UK suggests that nearly two-thirds of us believe the most popular working method in the future will be a flexible working arrangement. It says many people now seek a flexible working arrangement when job hunting.

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, a lot of companies have realised how much work can be done, with the majority of their employees working from home. Homeworking technology (Zoom, Skype) increased in adoption during this COVID-19 pandemic, which has brought about a change in how we work and operate. This technology has proved to be efficient in terms of time and cost of travel, inadvertently leading to a reduction in travel-related pollution levels.

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