Cars are an integral part of modern society. We use them on a daily basis to get around town, take vacations, and do our jobs. However, the emissions they produce have a significant impact on global warming and climate change.
This blog post will discuss how cars affect these issues as well as what you can do to reduce your carbon footprint while still getting from point A to point B!
Cars produce greenhouse gasses
Cars emit greenhouse gases primarily as a result of their use of fuel such as gasoline or diesel. These fuels produce carbon dioxide (CO2) as well as other harmful greenhouse gasses, such as nitrous oxide and methane.
It’s true that all living things emit carbon dioxide when they respire, but the amount of CO₂ emitted by cars significantly outpaces human emissions. In fact, cars represent a major source of CO₂ in the atmosphere, and this number is only expected to rise globally.
One gallon (or four liters) of gasoline results in 19 pounds (or about eight kilograms) of CO₂ being released into the air. One person’s driving accounts for more greenhouse gas emission than heating an average sized home all winter long!
This is why cars are said to account for around 20 percent of the world’s total carbon dioxide output, while only accounting for approximately 13-15 percent of all transportation.
It probably comes as no surprise to you that a car with a combustion engine is bad for the environment, but did you know that electric vehicles (EVs) produce only about one-third less CO₂ emissions than their standard counterparts?
This is because electric cars rely on electricity, which is usually generated at least in part by burning fossil fuels and therefore produces greenhouse emissions. So while an electric vehicle that is marketed as “zero emission” can be technically true, the impact of cars on global warming is a lot more complex than that.
Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere
Greenhouse gases, and CO2 especially, eventually ends up in the atmosphere, where it stays and traps the sun’s heat by blocking the radiative heat transfer from the Earth’s surface. The more greenhouse gases there are in the Earth’s atmosphere, the less heat is able to escape back into space and the hotter our planet gets.
This process is known as the greenhouse effect, because it is not that different from how a greenhouse works. The greenhouse effect causes global warming, which leads to climate change.
If the Earth’s temperature continues to rise, climate change will accelerate, and that will lead to more extreme weather events like flooding and droughts. This means that many regions of the world may get too hot or too cold for people, animals, and crops (leading to famine).
How to Reduce Your Environmental Impact
There are many things you can do to decrease your vehicle’s carbon footprint, depending on your circumstances. Obviously, completely giving up your car is not a realistic option for most people. But there are many things that you can do to make driving less harmful for our planet.
Get a more fuel efficient car
Not all vehicles are the same. What kind of vehicle you have affects how much fuel you use, and that in turn affects CO2 emissions. The less fuel you use, the less CO₂ you will emit into the atmosphere.
While electric vehicles may still be cost-prohibitive, hybrid cars are a lower cost option that can significantly decrease your environmental impact. As an added benefit, you’ll save money on gas.
If you can’t replace your car right now (and have a vehicle that uses fuel), consider using the best octane rating possible. Using higher octane fuel allows your car to run more efficiently and emits less CO₂ as a result of using it.
Get a fully electric car
Electric vehicles do produce a lot less CO₂ than gasoline-powered vehicles; however, the source of their energy matters a lot! Indeed, if EVs are charged with electricity from non-renewable energy sources such as coal or oil, they could even produce more greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline-powered cars.
With that said, more and more of the energy produced in both the U.S. and Europe is coming from renewable sources, so this calculation becomes less and less significant as time goes on.
All in all, if you don’t mind paying more for the benefits of owning an EV, this is a good way to decrease your impact on global warming. And as energy production from renewables continues to increase, so will the environmental benefits of your EVs as well.
Try carpooling or public transportation
If you know that there are other people in your neighborhood who also need to get somewhere at around the same time as you do, consider teaming up and sharing one car between the two of you. This is a great way to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions because it means that only one car has to be used, which in turn reduces CO₂ from fuel usage and vehicle production.
If a shared ride isn’t an option for you, consider using public transportation instead. Public transport doesn’t nearly emit as much CO₂ as a personal vehicle per passenger mile, because the emissions are divided among all passengers.
Drive less by consolidating trips
A good idea is to consolidate your trips as much as possible, to minimize the number of times you have to drive. If there are errands that can be combined or consolidated into one trip, then this will decrease the amount of CO₂ emissions associated with each individual trip.
Use a bike for short distances
While it’s admittedly off topic, we can’t really talk about cars without a comment on biking. Biking is a great way to reduce your environmental impact, because it requires no fuel and produces zero CO₂.
Biking may seem arduous if you’re not accustomed to it, but it’s a fun activity, and you can get from point A to point B in shorter time than walking or running, while sweating less.
It’s also good for you! So if there are some short distances that can be covered by biking, then do so as often as possible.
You can’t avoid everything, but you can offset it
As scientists continue to see signs of climate change happening around us on a large scale, we need to find innovative ways of combating it. A good way to manage the environmental impact that you can’t avoid is to offset it.
Offsetting your car means that you pay to reduce greenhouse gas emissions somewhere else in the world.
While it’s better to avoid releasing the Co2 in the first place, the result is virtually the same: you reduce your carbon footprint and help ensure a cleaner future for our planet!