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AIR TRAVEL AND ITS IMPACT ON CLIMATE CHANGE

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Message Maryrose Asher
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The fact is the United States has not kept up with the rest of the world in developing a viable passenger rail system.  A study by the International Railway Journal reveals that the US ranks between Bolivia and Turkey with only $1.65 per capita spent on rail travel.  In comparison, Switzerland's per capita rate is $228.29.

 

The information below addresses the question as to whether rail service could improve US carbon emissions.

More trains can help address the global warming problem. "Energy efficiency is a good proxy for emissions, and emissions per passenger-mile and ton-mile are lower for rail than for aviation, cars and trucks," said Ross B. Capon, executive director of the National Association of Railroad Passengers.

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·         Amtrak in 2003 consumed 18% less energy per passenger-mile than commercial aviation; 17% less than automobiles,

·         Commuter rail was 22% more energy efficient than automobiles, and

·         Freight rail was 18% more fuel efficient per ton-mile than water carriers. And, comparing energy consumption per rail-car-mile and per mile traveled by heavy single-unit and combination trucks, the rail-car consumed 36% fewer British Thermal Units. 

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[Source for all modes: Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Transportation Energy Data Book: Edition 25, tables 2.11, 2.12 and 2.14] 

Surprisingly, the Kyoto Protocol does not address greenhouse gases produced by the airline industry due to the difficulty in allocating responsibility for aircraft emissions between countries.  This means aircraft emissions are not calculated into its effects on climate change.

As to whether carbon-trading will fix the problem, the following is from an article in the Guardian, "What is the environmental cost of flying?" 

EU aircraft emissions have risen by 87% since 1990, and by 2030 the government says a quarter of all UK carbon pollution will come from jet engines. The decision to increase the capacity of Heathrow and other airports mean that almost the entire government-projected carbon quota for 2050 will be bagged by aircraft. Airlines say they have made great strides in fuel efficiency - up 70% since the 1960s - but a rapid expansion in the number of flights will swamp future improvements. And there is no obvious technological fix. 

So what is the solution? Yesterday, the EU took the first steps to snare airlines in its emissions-trading scheme, which requires companies to buy their way out of missed pollution targets. That the majority of airlines support the move speaks volumes. 

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According to Friends of the Earth member Richard Dyer: "Emissions trading is better than nothing, but it will have a tiny impact on aviation emissions. We need additional measures to curb aviation demand."

There is a substantial increase in one's carbon footprint, especially for someone who does not drive yet continues to fly.  Each of us can calculate our carbon footprint by going to My Green Lifestyle http://green.yahoo.com/calculator/results.  First, do your calculations with the amount of flying you actually do and then as if you did not use air travel.  It might surprise you to learn how substantial the impact of flying has on your carbon footprint. 

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Maryrose Asher Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Political activist living on Vashon Island in the state of Washington. Former Chair of Green Party of Washington State (GPoWS); member of Green Party Peace Network; member of StandUp! Seattle; and Jewish peace activist supporting a one-state (more...)
 

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