A Closer Look at the Impacts
Transportation is responsible for about a third of global greenhouse gas emissions and is the second biggest polluter, right after industry.
Greenhouse gases not only affect the environment by causing the greenhouse effect and therefore global warming; they also carry potentially dangerous consequences for human health. According to the World Health Organization, 25% to 35% of deaths in developing countries are related to exposure to air pollution. The WHO claims that urban air pollution, caused mostly by transportation, is responsible for nearly 800,000 deaths every year. The consequences of exposure to air pollution include lung and heart damage, development of various types of cancers and even impaired neurological development or a weaker immune system.
An Increasing Number of Cars
In the United States alone, there are about 140 millions cars; together, they cover a distance of over 4 billion miles and use more than 200 millions gallons of gasoline per year.
On a worldwide scale, the number of cars has surpassed 1. 015 billion. The production of 87 million barrels of oil per day is necessary to keep these vehicles on the road. According to the International Transportation Forum (ITF), the number of cars worldwide could reach 2.5 billion by 2050, requiring that the daily production of oil reach 120 million barrels.
This, then, is where the “car situation” poses a serious threat to the environment. In order to attain such a level of production, oil companies will have to rely on alternative, unconventional sources such as the tar sands of Alberta.
The exploitation of the tar sands in Alberta has often been pointed out as one the worst environmental catastrophes in history. Each year, tar sands exploitation alone is responsible for the release of over 50 million tons of greenhouse gas, the waste or the pollution of millions of gallons of water and the destruction of thousands of square kilometers of forest.
Taking all that into consideration, the answer is obvious: yes, cars are still a big threat to the environment in 2013.
What Are the Solutions?
Hearing scary, pessimistic and alarming facts about the environment is becoming common. While we do know that cars have a tragic effect on our planet’s – and our own – well-being, we would be kidding ourselves if we thought we could give them up completely.
So what are the solutions? Feeling guilty isn’t one of them. What can be done, concretely, to lower the impact of cars on the environment?
Electric and hybrid cars are a lukewarm solution. While they undoubtedly reduce toxic emissions, they are manufactured at a high ecological cost. As a matter of fact, their batteries contain rare earth elements. These minerals are used in many new technologies, in green and alternative technologies in particular. How is this a problem? Their exploitation is extremely polluting, not to mention the fact that because electric and hybrid cars batteries contain rare earth elements and other components such as lithium or nickel, it is almost impossible to dispose of them at the end of their useful lives.
The only seemingly viable solution lies in the behavior of each individual. While it is impossible to completely banish cars from our lives, it is certainly possible to reduce our usage of them.
Sharing your Range Rover Evoque with coworkers instead of riding in it alone in the morning, using public transit or other alternative means of transportation, such as bikes: these are simple choices that can truly make a difference.
To Conclude: Some Positive News
Passing on a dirty, polluted, toxic and scary world to future generations is something that worries many of us. But maybe there is something else we should be worried about: creating a depressed, disillusioned and overly worried generation, who grow up hearing end-of-the-world stories about the environment and learning to shame the generations that authored those stories.
According to Joel Wood, senior researcher at the Vancouver Fraser Institute, Canada’s air quality has been improving steadily since the 70s, and is still improving. The concentration of the two major and most dangerous pollutants in the air, ground-level ozone and ultra-fine particulate matter, has decreased considerably since the early 2000s.
Another study conducted by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health demonstrates the same thing, and adds that the improvement of air quality has increased life expectancy in the US.
It is also interesting to know that Europe is on its way to not only meeting but exceeding the Kyoto Protocol’s expectations on greenhouse gas reduction.
Want more positive news about the environment ? Check this website out.
Images are from The Microsoft Office Clipart Collection
Guest Author Bio
Mireille is a travel, music and theater enthusiast. She wrote for the stage and television, and also works as a freelance blogger for landroverlaval.com a Quebec-based auto dealer.