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Environmental impact of transportation

Environmental impact of transportation

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What happens when cars get stuck in traffic with their engines running?

Environmental impact of transportation

Jenny, Esi and Aki are planning a trip to a musical festival, but can’t decide how to get there. Esi suggested they could fly there because it would be the fastest. Aki would prefer to drive there, because it’s not that far and they could easily take their music equipment with them. Jenny wants to take the bus or train because that is much cheaper. All options seem to have their pros and cons.

But there is one more thing Jenny, Esi and Aki could consider when deciding what type of transport they should pick: that is - its environmental impact. With more and more roads, railways and airports being built, our way of living has changed drastically. People travel much more than they used to, they can eat food from all over the world and often wear clothes that have been made on the other side of the globe. But increased mobility has its downsides. A lot of natural environments have to be destroyed to build roads for example.

Different modes of transport are a major contributor to air pollution. In some parts of the world, air pollution due to transportation, is so bad it’s dangerous for people’s health. It’s also estimated that transportation accounts for 23% of emissions of gases like carbon dioxide, and other greenhouse gases. These all contribute to changes in climate. But let’s take a closer look at the three options that Jenny, Esi and Aki are considering for their trip, and how these impact the environment.

Flying might seem like a good option, because flying has the shortest travel time. But planes emit far more of the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide per trip and per passenger, than any other mode of transport. They also emit other gases at very high altitudes. Gases become concentrated at those altitudes and contribute to changing climate. The impact of flying on the environment is very high.

But what about driving? Aki’s car is very small, and uses fuel quite efficiently. But because it’s summer and many people are travelling, there might be holiday traffic jams. This means cars get stuck in traffic with their engines running, even though the cars are not moving. This could seriously impact air quality in the area.

Finally, there’s the option of taking public transport. Although buses also cause air pollution, buses can transport more people at once than cars. This means less vehicles on the roads, as well as less emissions per journey. Trains can carry an even larger amount of passengers. But trains are only better for the environment if they are powered by electricity generated through renewable sources.

If, for example, trains are powered by diesel, a type of fossil fuel, that can cause a lot of pollution. While public transport often impacts the environment the least, it is still however inaccessible in many areas. This is especially noticeable in more rural places, where fewer people live. Households in the countryside usually have no other option but to have a car. All modes of transport have an impact on the environment.

What do you think would be the best way for Jenny, Esi and Aki to get to their festival?