Pollution Comes from Transportation

Pollution Comes from Transportation

Pollution Comes from Transportation


Greenhouse gases increase the temperatures of the earth by trapping heat beneath the atmosphere, which makes Earth warmer. Anthropogenic activities contribute significantly to the increase in GHG gases. The sources of CO2, methane, nitride oxide, and fluorinated gases  can be grouped into four, namely: industry, transportation, electricity, commercial and residential, and agriculture. In the U.S., transportation has surpassed the industry and electricity as the leading source of GHG for the first time in 2017. Therefore, various laws have been enacted throughout the world to reduce GHG emissions. The Paris convention on emission has required member states to implement aggressive measures to deal with the problem. However, the U.S. has withdrawn from the Paris climate change agreement and relaxed some of its laws on emission, except a few states like California, which has stuck to the agreement and adopted aggressive strategies.     

Statement of the Problem

Effects of GHG Emission. Global warming occurs when greenhouse gases collect in the atmosphere and absorb light and radiation from the sun that has bounced off the ground. The average global temperature has increased over the past 50 years. In particular, the average temperatures in the U.S. could increase by 10 F0 (MacMillan par.4). This rise in temperatures is causing hotter and longer heat waves, heavier precipitations, frequent and longer droughts, and stronger hurricanes. For example, by 2015, California experienced the harshest drought in 1,200 years, in which global warming had intensified to 20% from 15% (Gillis). Global warming is responsible for the many catastrophes, such as droughts, heat waves, floods, and more powerful hurricanes experienced by communities in the world.

            Based on the U.S. EPA , the ocean temperatures are getting warmer, which increases the energy of tropical storms. Global warming can transform a class 3 storm into class 4, which is more dangerous. Thus, categories 4 and 5 storms have become common. Similarly, the frequencies of more powerful hurricanes have increased from that of the 1980s. Moreover, death from heat waves has increased around the globe. Concurrently, the Antartica ice has been declining at 134 billion metric tons annually from 2002 (EPA.gov). As scientist keeps learning more concerning the effects of global warming, many health, economic, and environmental consequences are likely to occur unless the current trends are addressed.   

Sources of GHG. Various human activities release GHG gases, including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases, into the atmosphere, causing global warming. Different activities contribute to a different proportion of these gases. By the economic sector, electricity and heat production contribute 25%; industry 21%; agriculture, forestry, and other land use 24%, transportation 21%, other energy sources 10%; and buildings 6% of the 2010 global GHG emissions  (EPA.gov) (see Fig 1). Electricity and heat production, land use, and industry are the leading sources of GHG emissions in the world; they account for 25%, 24%, and 21% of the emissions respectively (EPA.gov). In the U.S., traffic emissions overtook industry, electricity, and land use to be the leading source of these gases in 2017. Transportation accounts for 28.9 percent of GHG emissions in the U.S. followed by electricity and industry at 27.5% and 22.2% respectively (EPA.gov). Consequently, many laws have been passed to limit emission from traffic.

Figure 1. Global GHG Emission by Economic Sector (EPA.gov)   

China and the United States are the leading contributors to GHG in the world. China accounts for almost 28% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. The U.S. is the second at 16% although the country comprises just 4% of the global population (EPA.gov). It is the leading in cumulative emissions over the past 15 decades. Thus, the responsibility of these countries to the rest of the world and to themselves matter.   

Global Laws to Combat Emission

Countries have come together to address emission. The Paris climate change agreement, which became effective on 4 November 2016, requires UN member states to undertake ambitious efforts to stop global warming from progressing and adapt to its consequences. Besides, the convention requires the high-income member states to help low-income countries to combat climate change. The Paris agreement brings the United Nations into a common objective to implement ambitious efforts against climate change, adjust to its consequences, and help third-world countries meet the goals of the convention. It aimed to limit the increase in the global temperature below 20C over the pre-industrial levels this century. Furthermore, the convention urges the parties to endeavor to limit the increase in the global temperatures further to 1.50C (United Nations Climate Change par.2). A hundred and ninety-five nations, including China and the U.S., were a party to the convention.

            Under the Obama administration, the United States had pledged $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund to facilitate developing countries to acquire cleaner energy technologies. However, President Trump announced the withdrawal of the U.S. from the convention and vowed to repeal emission policies, including the Climate Action Plan (Tabuchi par.6). Nonetheless, the U.S. through organizations and initiatives, such as the United States Climate Alliance, Climate Mayors, We Are Still In, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, businesses, states, and local leaders are still participating in the cause. These entities have disregarded the president’s move and vowed to uphold and respect the objectives of the convention.

Regional Laws to Combat Emission

In 2015, the U.S. EPA pledged to cut carbon emission from power plants to about a third by 2030 from the 2005 levels. However, after President Trump took office, the agency proposed to repeal the Clean Power Plan, which was the tool it intended to use to implement the goal (MacMillan par.15). Similarly, the U.S. Department of Transportation had proposed, during the previous government, carbon emission and fuel economy standards aimed to reduce pollution over the 2020s. Nonetheless, the ministry is seeking to reverse the clean vehicle policies. State leaders, including in the auto-manufacturing strongholds in the Midwest, understand the position of clean transportation in the fight against climate change and its costly consequences. Regional efforts across the U.S. have promoted the electric car market. Moreover, the U.S. clean energy has grown despite the attempts of Trump’s administration to derail it (MacMillan par.19). Some states have implemented aggressive measures to ensure they cut their contribution to emissions by a big margin.    

California has achieved significant success through its Consumer Assistance Program (CAP).  The Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) administered the program to promote the air quality of the state (California Government par.1). The program, which is voluntary, provides two options:  repair assistance and vehicle retirement. The first is offered to individuals whose vehicles fail biennial Smog Check inspection. Eligible consumers receive a maximum of $500 in emissions-related repairs at a STAR test-and-repair station. The second option offers consumers who satisfy criteria of either $1,000 or $1,500 to retire their vehicle from California roads. They must submit their cars to a dismantler site contracted by BAR (California Government par.3). The program has helped rid the state of old vehicles with high emission levels.

California has defied the call from President Trump to relax the laws, and have instead taken ambitious measures to cut on its emissions. It requires car manufacturers to sell electric vehicles, including trucks, through the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program. The program allocates a specific number of electric cars an automaker must sell based on its sales in the state. The programs allocate each car manufacturer ZEV credits that they must maintain proportional to the non-electric sales. The automakers earn credits per electric car sale according to the ZEV type and battery capacity. The requirement of ZEV credit was 4.5% in 2018, which corresponds to the electric vehicles sales constituting 2.5% of their respective sales. The credit will increase to 22% in 2025, corresponding to electric vehicles sales constituting 8% of their sales (Union of Concerned Scientists par.3). Moreover, ZEV seeks to encourage automakers to research, develop, and promote electrical vehicles over gas-powered ones. The program, which is owned by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), has been implemented by other states, including Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, Maryland, New Jersey, and Maine.

China has adapted similar drastic measures. Most major cities in the country have high traffic congestion, air pollution, and carbon emissions. According to the World Bank, China is the largest car market in the globe and transportation accounts for 55% of its oil consumption as of 2015. Carbon dioxide emissions from traffic were about 900 million tons in 2016 and were projected to increase consistent with the increase in the number of cars. In 2011, the ministry of transport initiated a plan to encourage the development of public transit metropolises, which are cities with public transports capacity exceeding 60% of all private means commuters, to combat traffic congestion. Furthermore, the Chinese government sought to make public transportation attractive to commuters by improving services, investing in infrastructure, enhancing roadway priority, and setting friendly operational policies. Of note, the project received US$18.18 million from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) (The World Bank). The project promotes development, piloting and demonstration of travel demand management strategies and measures, advanced public transport systems (APTS), transit-oriented development (TOD), and intelligent transport systems (ITS). ITS has been successful in reducing congestion by managing urban traffic. Such public metropolis uses the latest technology to provide real-time, integrated vie of the bus transportation in the city network. For instance, in the Suzhou, the public transportation network comprise of 4,680 bus fleets serving 370 routes with a carrying capacity of 1.5 million passengers daily (The World Bank par.10). The initiative by the Chinese Ministry of Transport has borne fruits.

Besides reducing emissions and air pollution, the program has saved travel time. Emission in the cities that have implemented the plan have reduced by 0.95, 0.98, and 1.53 million tons in Suzhou, Harbin, and Chengdu respectively (The World Bank). Consequently, several global workshops have so far been organized to exchange views and experiences to boost efforts to mitigate emissions from transportation. The initiative developed by the transportation ministry in collaboration with the World Bank offers other countries with the opportunity to learn and replicate China’s experience and strategy towards the Paris convention goals. The representative of the governor of California has recently visited China to learn the facilitators and barriers to the initiative to duplicate it in California (Chung par.1).      

Conclusion Emission of GHGs is responsible for Climate change, which has increased the magnitude and frequencies of natural disasters, including hurricanes, floods, droughts, and heat waves. China and the U.S. are the first and the second leading contributors to global warming respectively. The main economic sectors responsible for GHG emissions are industry, electricity and heat production, land use, and transportation. In the U.S. transportation overtook industry as the leading source of CO2, inspiring different states to adopt drastic measures to mitigate its emission. The United Nations have pulled together to combat emission of GHG, and have obliged UN member states to take ambitious measures to reduce emission, and help third-world countries meet the goals of the convention. The agreement aims to limit the global temperature increase to 20C and further to 1.50C relative to the pre-industrial level this century. However, the U.S. has withdrawn from the agreement and has rolled back some emission policies. Nonetheless, some states, including California, have implemented drastic measures consistent with the requirements laid down in the Paris convention. It has succeeded to cut its emission drastically through CAP and ZEV programs, with the latter being adopted by nine other states. Through the ITS, China has achieved significant reduction in the emissions in the three cities it used for pilot studies of the program. The program seeks to reduce emission by decongesting its cities.

Works Cited

California Government. Welcome to the Consumer Assistance Program. 2013. 10 June 2019 <https://www.smogcheck.ca.gov/Consumer/Consumer_Assistance_Program/index.html>Chung, Kimmy. “California Signs up for China’s Belt and Road Forum to HElp in Fight against Climate Change.” South China Morning Post 25 April 2019: <https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3007704/california-signs-chinas-belt-and-road-forum-help-fight-against>

Epa.gov. Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions. United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA),  19 January 2017. 10 June 2019          <https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions>.

MacMillan, Amanda. Global Warming 101. 11 March 2016. 10 June 2019 <https://www.nrdc.org/stories/global-warming-101>.

Tabuchi, Hiroko. “Quietly, Trump Officials and California Seek a Deal on Car Emissions.” The New York Times 5 April 2018: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/05/climate/trump-california-emissions.html.The World Bank. Reducing Traffic Congestion and Emission in Chinese Cities . 16 November 2018. <https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2018/11/16/reducing-traffic-congestion-and-emission-in-chinese-cities>.

Union of Concerned Scientists. What is ZEV. 31 October 2016. 10 June 2019 <https://www.ucsusa.org/clean-vehicles/california-and-western-states/what-is-zev>.

United Natioins Climate Change. The Paris Agreement. 2019. <https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement/d2hhdC1pcy>.


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