The carbon costs of modern transportation have been known for decades. Since the invention of the steam train, running on coal, our transportation systems have been contributing to climate change. That being said, they are terribly convenient. In fact, they are so convenient, our society literally could not function without them. Imagine what our life would be without cars, or planes, buses, or trains! How would we get anywhere?
As we all know by now, our cars are huge emitters of carbon. Annually, the average car in the UK releases 1,682,383 grams of CO2 into the atmosphere each year. For comparison, a return flight from London to Perth is 6306 grams of CO2. So, one return flight to Australia costs 266 times less in carbon than driving your car for a year. Obviously, a car is a bit more necessary than a holiday to Australia, but you see the point.
However, this brings us onto aviation – another key contributor to carbon emissions. In fact, the aviation industry made up 7% of the UK’s carbon emissions in 2018. Yet, flights are amazing. We can get all over the world in record time, and since Covid, record prices. This year, I bought a return flight from London to Lisbon for £30! Whilst this was an incredible deal for me, I did deeply consider the environmental impact of my insanely cheap getaway. Whilst I enjoyed my holiday, I decided that upon my return, I would offset my insanely cheap emissions by going vegetarian for a month.
Everywhere we look, our transportation systems are laden with carbon emissions. Furthermore, some companies are manipulating our good intentions for profit! It’s easy to feel hopeless – how can we ever change a system that is so reliant on carbon, when we too are so desperately reliant on it?
In fact, there are many things you can do as an individual and that we can do collectively. Let’s start with your personal transportation. If you live in an urban centre and drive to work, consider other forms of transportation! Buses, whilst also carbon emitters, are far more sustainable due to the number of people they deliver to their destination. My personal favourite is cycling – the most fun, active and carbon free way of getting to work/your destination. Alternatively, if you live in a rural area and these options aren’t as available, consider carpooling with friends or colleagues.
As electric or hybrid cars become affordable, perhaps now is the time to consider getting one. As a Londoner, I know that driving in the city has become practically impossible without an electric car. Since society seems to be moving in this direction fairly rapidly, now is a good time to get ahead of the curve.
Aviation is different to cars since most of us don’t have our own planes. Pretty much all of us use commercial flights, and fly less frequently than we would like. However, there are still things we can do individually and collectively to reduce aviation emissions. The primary thing we can do is to never, ever take domestic flights that are accessible by train. Whilst domestic flights are sometimes cheaper than the train, think about whether that extra £20 is worth the damage that flight is creating. The United Kingdom is a small country with railways connecting most destinations. If you are a frequent domestic flyer, consider alternatives for some of your journeys. Equally, if you often holiday in Europe (and you don’t have young children), consider rail alternatives. You can make a trip out of it, see places along the way that you cannot see by flying!
There have been talks of the government banning certain domestic flights that have a decent alternative by rail. Write to your MPs, alert our representatives that we are in support of this measure.
With the Get2Cop app, you can choose the cause that you most support. Since transportation is such a huge contributor to carbon emissions, show our representatives in Cop27 that this is the cause you care about by selecting it as your avatar. Make the pledge – whether that is saving up for an electric car, carpooling, using public transportation, walking more, or buying (or using) a bike. If we all commit together, we can make a difference. To the individual, change is immense, but together, we can make it smaller!