Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Planes, trains, or automobiles: Travel choices for a smaller carbon footprint

Date:
June 17, 2013
Source:
International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis
Summary:
Planes, trains, or automobiles: what's the most climate-friendly way to travel? A new study by researchers from IIASA and CICERO brings better estimates of how much personal travel impacts the climate.

Planes, trains, or automobiles: what's the most climate-friendly way to travel? A new study by researchers from IIASA and CICERO brings better estimates of how much personal travel impacts the climate.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology by researchers at IIASA and Center for International Climate and Environmental Research (CICERO) calculates the climate impact for passenger trips of 500-1000 km -- typical distances for business or holiday trips. It shows that while air travel continues to have the biggest climate impact per distance travelled, the choices that people make about how they drive or take public transport make a big difference in how much they contribute to climate change.

"Traveling alone in a large car can be as bad for the climate as flying, but driving with three in a small car could have an equally low impact as a train ride," says IIASA's Jens Borken-Kleefeld. A 1000 km trip alone in a big car could emit as much as 250 kg of carbon dioxide (CO2), the researchers calculate, while a train trip or carpooling in a small car could emit as little as 50 kg of CO2 for each traveler.

Air travel has by far the biggest impact on climate per distance traveled, because it can lead to contrails and formation of cirrus clouds that have a strong climate impact, as well as ozone. These mechanisms have a strong effect on the climate, but cause warming over much shorter periods of time than CO2.

The study focused on the short-lived greenhouse gases and aerosols emitted by both ground transportation and airplanes. In addition, the researchers accounted for vehicle occupancy and efficiency, based on real-world emissions data from cars, buses, trains, and airplanes in Europe.

"These components have not been regulated in the Kyoto Protocol," says Terje Berntsen, climate researcher at CICERO. "This means they risk being overlooked when comparing the climate impact from different travel choices."

Previous work and publicly available carbon footprint calculators estimate only averages for the whole transport system, at best. That means that they can miss big differences in climate impact that come from other pollutants, personal choices, and local mitigation measures.

Technologies to control air pollutant emissions from cars, buses, power plants, and trains effectively minimizes their climate impact, the study also shows -- benefiting not just air quality but also climate change mitigation efforts. The researchers say that mitigation efforts should concentrate on improving fuel efficiency and developing low-carbon fuels. While this is also important for aircraft, they say, more needs to be done to avoid the contrail and cirrus clouds.

For people wanting to minimize their climate impact, Borken-Kleefeld says, "Try to avoid flying, driving alone, and driving big cars. Instead, when you can, choose the train, bus, or carpool with 2 to 3 people."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Borken-Kleefeld, Jens, Jan Fuglestvedt, and Terje Berntsen. Mode, load, and specific climate impact from passenger trips. Environmental Science and Technology:, 2013 (in press) DOI: 10.1021/es4003713

Cite This Page:

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis. "Planes, trains, or automobiles: Travel choices for a smaller carbon footprint." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 June 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130617111345.htm>.
International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis. (2013, June 17). Planes, trains, or automobiles: Travel choices for a smaller carbon footprint. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130617111345.htm
International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis. "Planes, trains, or automobiles: Travel choices for a smaller carbon footprint." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130617111345.htm (accessed September 19, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, September 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Wildfires in CA Burn Forest Asunder

Raw: Wildfires in CA Burn Forest Asunder

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) An out-of-control Northern California wildfire has nearly 2,800 people from their homes as it continues to grow, authorities said Thursday. Authorities said a man has been arrested on suspicion of arson for starting the fire on Saturday. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) Grand the elephant has successfully undergone surgery to remove a portion of infected tusk at Tbilisi Zoo in Georgia. British veterinary surgeons used an electric drill to extract the infected piece. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) A Texas man is lucky to be alive after he and three others floated for more than a day in the Gulf of Mexico when their boat sank during a fishing trip. (Sept. 16) 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