Transportation

The transportation sector encompasses all movement of people and goods. Almost 28 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions can be attributed to this sector, and the overwhelming share of these emissions are from CO2 emitted as the result of burning transportation fuels derived from petroleum (EPA, 2009c). Between 1970 and 2007, U.S. transportation energy use and hence GHG emissions nearly doubled.1 Consequently, transportation is a major driver of climate change, and a sector with a potentially large role in limiting the magnitude of climate change.

Reducing transportation-related GHG emissions, and understanding the impacts of climate change on transportation systems, are concerns of many decision makers. Questions they are asking, or will be asking, about transportation and climate change include the following:

• How much do various modes of transportation contribute to climate change?

• What technologies and strategies can be used to reduce GHG emissions by the largest transportation contributors?

• How will transportation systems in my area be affected by climate change?

• What steps can be taken to make transportation systems less vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and how can I apply them in current systems and incorporate them in the design and development of new infrastructure and policy?

This chapter summarizes how reducing the total amount of transportation activity, shifting some of the activity to less energy- and emissions-intensive modes, increasing energy efficiency, and reducing the GHG intensity of transportation fuels could help in lowering GHG emissions from this sector. Additionally, the chapter outlines how climate change will affect the transportation sector and describes the scientific and engineering knowledge regarding adaptation options. The last section of the chapter indicates research that is needed to better understand the impacts of climate change on transportation and ways to reduce GHG emissions in the transportation sector.

1 The almost exclusive reliance on a single fuel source, petroleum, in the transportation sector means that relative energy expenditures can be interpreted as relative GHG emissions.

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