Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Travelling by car increases global temperatures more than travelling by plane, but only in the long term

Date:
August 5, 2010
Source:
Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research (CICERO)
Summary:
Driving alone in a car increases global temperatures in the long run more than making the same long-distance journey by air according to a new study. However, in the short run traveling by air has a larger adverse climate impact because airplanes strongly affect short-lived warming processes at high altitudes.

Driving alone in a car increases global temperatures in the long run more than making the same long-distance journey by air according to a new study. However, in the short run traveling by air has a larger adverse climate impact because airplanes strongly affect short-lived warming processes at high altitudes.
Credit: iStockphoto

Driving alone in a car increases global temperatures in the long run more than making the same long-distance journey by air according to a new study. However, in the short run traveling by air has a larger adverse climate impact because airplanes strongly affect short-lived warming processes at high altitudes.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology by a team of researchers from Austria and Norway, compares the impacts on global warming of different means of transport. The researchers use, for the first time, a suite of climate chemistry models to consider the climate effects of all long- and short-lived gases, aerosols and cloud effects, not just carbon dioxide, resulting from transport worldwide.

In the long run the global temperature increase from a car trip will on average be higher than from a plane journey of the same distance. However, in the first years after the journey, air travel increases global temperatures four times more than car travel. Passenger trains and buses cause four to five times less impact than automobile travel for every kilometer a passenger travels. The findings prove robust despite the scientific uncertainties in understanding the earth's climate system.

"As planes fly at high altitudes, their impact on ozone and clouds is disproportionately high, though short lived. Although the exact magnitude is uncertain, the net effect is a strong, short-term, temperature increase," explains IIASA's Dr Jens Borken-Kleefeld, lead author of the study. "Car travel emits more carbon dioxide than air travel per passenger kilometer. As carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere longer than the other gases, cars have a more harmful impact on climate change in the long term."

The research also showed that when it comes to freight transport, moving goods by planes will increase global temperatures between 7 to 35 times more than moving the same goods the same distance in an average truck. Shipping on the contrary exerts 25 times less warming in the long run, and even cools on shorter time scales.

"Ships contribute to global warming through carbon dioxide, ozone and soot. Currently they also emit relatively large amounts of sulfur dioxide which forms sulfate particles in the atmosphere. Those particles cool the planet by reflecting solar radiation back into space," says co-author Dr Jan Fuglestvedt from CICERO. "In the first decades after a shipment, the cooling effect more than offsets the warming. And because of the large volumes of goods traded by ship, global trade actually counteracts some of the temperature increases caused by global passenger travel. However, in the long term all means of motorized transport add to global warming."

The study concluded that as climate change acts at various time scales, it is important to have policies to reduce both the air pollutants that have strong, short-term impacts and the long-lived gases that lead to long-term warming. In addition, Dr Borken-Kleefeld argues: "A comprehensive strategy to tackle climate change caused by the transport sector is actually to minimize the demand for transport."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research (CICERO). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Borken-Kleefeld, J., Berntsen, T., Fuglestvedt, J. Specific Climate Impact of Passenger and Freight Transport. Environmental Science & Technology, 2010; 44 (15): 5700-5706 DOI: 10.1021/es9039693

Cite This Page:

Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research (CICERO). "Travelling by car increases global temperatures more than travelling by plane, but only in the long term." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 August 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100804103648.htm>.
Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research (CICERO). (2010, August 5). Travelling by car increases global temperatures more than travelling by plane, but only in the long term. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100804103648.htm
Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research (CICERO). "Travelling by car increases global temperatures more than travelling by plane, but only in the long term." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100804103648.htm (accessed August 29, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Friday, August 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Volcano Erupts on Papua New Guinea

Raw: Volcano Erupts on Papua New Guinea

AP (Aug. 29, 2014) Several communities were evacuated and some international flights were diverted on Friday after one of the most active volcanos in the region erupts. (Aug. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) State health officials say testing has confirmed the presence of a killer amoeba in a water system serving three St. John the Baptist Parish towns. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Have Figured Out Why Rocks Move In Death Valley

Scientists Have Figured Out Why Rocks Move In Death Valley

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) The mystery of the moving rocks in Death Valley, California, has finally been solved. Scientists are pointing to a combo of water, ice and wind. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Big Waves, Minor Flooding from Hurricane

Big Waves, Minor Flooding from Hurricane

AP (Aug. 27, 2014) Thundering surf spawned by Hurricane Marie pounded the Southern California coast Wednesday, causing minor flooding in a low-lying beach town. High surf warnings were posted for Los Angeles County south through Orange County. (Aug. 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins