How travel contributes to climate breakdown
- 88% of travel emissions are from vehicles like cars, lorries and motorbikes. Their assembly process requires energy generating a carbon footprint (yes, electric too). However most of the damage occurs when a fossil fuel burning vehicle hits the road releasing tonnes of carbon in the process. There are over 1 billion of these vehicles on the road today.
- 11% comes from air travel. The problems are much the same, planes also use fossil fuel emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
- Fossil fuels first need to be extracted, refined and transported for use which means more harmful emissions.
- Electric cars don’t emit any carbon once on the road, however they do require energy which has to come from somewhere. Until we hit 100% renewable energy electric car usage will harm the environment too but nowhere near as much.
What stops us from changing how we travel?
- We don’t want to sacrifice the freedom cars and planes give us to get to places and live our chosen lifestyle.
- Using public transport can take more time and is often not as convenient.
- There is currently no real alternative to flying if you need to get somewhere quickly.
- We’re worried about the cost of buying an electric car and how having one will affect our lifestyle. Will I run out of battery? Will it take ages to charge?
- Businesses most often prioritise based on cost and efficiency, so until the cost of transporting goods and services is cheaper and more efficient with clean energy vehicles, they won’t be used.
- Acting on climate change represents a trade-off between short-term and long-term benefits, which is the hardest trade-off for people to make. Ignoring it in the short-term is easy as we don’t have to make any personal sacrifices.
What you can do now
The best thing to do is get rid of your fossil fuel powered vehicles
To have the most impact switch to cycling, public transport and walking. For those who must have access to a car consider sharing one with others, increasing the utility of each individual vehicle. If you absolutely must own your own an electric car is your best bet — though it's important to remember that the manufacturing process of each electric car is still responsible for emissions. Owning an electric car is not as expensive as you might think and there are cost savings to be made over the long-term — especially if you install solar panels at your home to generate your own energy. Many governments have already committed to ban fossil fuel vehicle sales in the near future and more will follow. Think of it as an investment.
How much would this help?
A lot! Every time we take a carbon emitting vehicle off the road we send a message to car companies that we don’t want fossil fuel powered cars anymore. As their demand drops, more electric cars will be bought. With higher demand, supply and competition will increase causing prices to drop. Plus we’d innovate faster on the technology — better range, faster charging and more charging locations.
Only fly when you absolutely must
Currently there is no viable alternative to air travel beyond trains, buses and boats. Until someone figures out how to decarbonise airplanes we are going to have to make some sacrifices to our lifestyles. Try and save flying for long-haul journeys which can’t be achieved any other way. If you need to travel a shorter distance there’s usually another way. Look into it, cleaner travels methods like rail can be cheaper, and while it may take longer, you will get to experience more along the way.
When you must fly, consider paying a little to offset your carbon footprint. There are carbon footprint tools that will calculate the carbon cost of your flight and make it easy to pay.
How much would this help?
Air travel accounts for around 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions. There are bigger issues that need addressed, but remember every choice you make does have an impact.
Don't assume everyone knows they should change the way that they travel to prevent climate breakdown. We need everyone to become informed so they can also make a choice about how they travel.
Has ClimateChoice helped you make changes?
Then tweet your success story @climatechoice and we'll add it here!
Help change the system
Support the people, groups and parties who prioritise the planet
All global warming could be helped by changes to laws across the world which prioritise the planet. Find your local candidates who promise to prioritise the planet and support them.
Get involved on a grassroots level with activist groups and charities trying to raise awareness.
How can I do even more?
Become a vocal advocate of helping prevent climate breakdown. You could stand as a political candidate prioritising the planet, join an activist group or charity.
Why not start your own business or charity trying to fix a problem associated with climate change.
Too long; didn't read?
We’re killing the planet. 26% of dangerous greenhouse gas emissions enter our atmosphere because of the way we travel. To reduce these we must: