Originally published October 1 2014
Switching from cars to public transportation could save the world $100 trillion and reduce pollution by 40%
by Julie Wilson staff writer
(NaturalNews) Rising carbon dioxide emissions generated by vehicles has contributed to an epidemic that's resulted in widespread sickness and death across the U.S.
America isn't the only nation suffering; cities all over the world are experiencing decreased air quality due to pollution, causing many people to develop chronic health problems such as asthma, respiratory infections and other breathing difficulties.
Air pollution is believed to cause an estimated 200,000 early deaths in the U.S., according to an MIT study released in 2013. The study identified traffic emissions as the single leading cause of air pollution, making city-dwellers the perfect target.
Air pollutants not only adversely affect people and the environment but are also costly. However, a new report released by the University of California has an answer, and it's a relatively simple one. Use fewer cars.
Riding your bike or walking could save trillions over the next 35 years
Expanding public transportation could save the public and private sectors more than $100 trillion from now to 2050, according to UC Davis. Using other methods of mobility, like walking and biking, could reduce carbon dioxide emissions to just 1,700 megatons per year in 2050.
Enforcing stricter pollution control regulations, including expanding the use of ultralow-sulfur fuels, could help prevent an estimated 1.4 million early deaths annually resulting from vehicle tailpipe emissions by 2050, according to an analysis by the International Council on Clean Transportation.
By doubling motor vehicle fuel economy, officials estimate that CO2 emissions could be reduced by an additional 700 megatons in 2050.
"The study shows that getting away from car-centric development, especially in rapidly developing economies, will cut urban CO2 dramatically and also reduce costs," said the report's co-author, Lew Fulton, who is also co-director of NextSTEPS Program at the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies.
"It is also critical to reduce the energy use and carbon emissions of all vehicles," he added.
The report, which was released Sept. 17 at the United Nations Habitat III Preparatory Meeting in New York, was the first to explore how "major changes in transportation investments worldwide would affect urban passenger transport emissions as well as the mobility of different income groups."
A "High Shift" scenario was used to configure the study's numbers, an ideal model where governments increase investments in rail and clean bus transportation, in addition to installing infrastructure ensuring safe walking and bicycling. Governments would also need to spend less on road construction and parking garages, directing people away from the desire to own a vehicle.
Researchers hope that the findings will contribute to international agreements regarding policy reform.
U.S. still lead producer of CO2 traffic emissions
In 2010, nearly a quarter of carbon emissions originated from urban transportation sectors, creating about 2,300 megatons of CO2 that year. Experts say, with continued rapid urbanization, especially in developing countries like China and India, those numbers will double over the next 35 years, inflicting even more pressure on people and the environment.
America leads the world in urban passenger transportation CO2 emissions; however, it is expected to significantly reduce emissions from 670 megatons annually to 560 megatons by 2050 through slowing travel growth and increasing fuel efficiency.
However, rapid urban growth and vehicle dependency in China is expected to increase CO2 emissions from 190 megatons annually to a whopping 1,100 megatons. Fortunately, recent data show that China has already taken steps toward increasing public transportation investments.
India is another developing nation to keep a close eye. CO2 emissions are projected to increase from 70 megatons to 540 by the year 2050, but experts say that, under the High Shift scenario, mass transit can be implemented worldwide, tripling accessibility for the lowest income groups and doubling it for the second lowest groups.
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