Saving the planet will take more than electric vehicles, study finds
Both the electrification of the transport sector and the densification of cities will be needed to realistically tackle global climate change, new research suggests.
This duality of approaches is the conclusion of a recently published report speak Institute for Transport Development Policy (ITDP) and the University of California, Davis. The study serves as a call to action for policymakers, industry leaders and others on the need to address these two areas if the world is to keep global warming below the threshold of 1, 5 degrees Celsius, which scientists say is necessary to avoid the worst. effects of climate change.
âWe are heading in the right direction. I believe that sooner or later American cities will get there. But we have to intensify it, multiply it tenfold, âsaid Taylor Reich, one of the leading authors of the research, echoing the clear sense of urgency the moment calls for.
“With something less than a global effort that cuts carbon emissions to zero by 2050, or 2070 at the latest, the Earth will warm by more than 2 degrees C by 2100,” the report says, going on to speculate that at the current level of carbon emissions, the planet is expected to exceed 5 degrees of warming, a level considered catastrophic in terms of crop losses, floods, fires and human suffering.
Passenger transport is responsible for 10 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases. In the United States, transportation is generally the largest contributor to carbon emissions. In California alone, transportation is responsible for 40% of greenhouse gas emissions. Zero-emission vehicles have the potential to significantly reduce these emissions, especially when powered by electricity derived from renewable sources, the researchers say.
However, this is not enough. Land use patterns need to change so that there is less driving in the first place, Reich said.
âElectrification and land-use change – as well as investments in buses, bicycles and public transport, including reallocation of road space from cars to these other modes – must be done as biggest lift possible, âexplained Reich. âThey need to be done as quickly and as widely as possible. It is not a question of privileging one or the other. It’s about embracing the two, together, as much as we can.
These changes – in urbanization and electrification – are unlikely to evolve quickly, or at the same pace, say other planners, arguing for greater action by cities when developing city plans. territory with a clear climate strategy in mind.
âThe vast majority of cars people buy today run on gas and produce carbon emissions. So that’s a major problem, âsaid Yonah Freemark, senior research associate at the Urban Institute. âSo we also need to invest in other alternatives and provide people with living environments that allow them not to have to depend on car travel for everything they do. And we don’t do this quickly.
Of course, some cities like Minneapolis have taken steps to phase out single-family zoning – the 20th century housing policy largely attributed to the expansion of car-dominated suburbs – which can lead to denser urban environments. Other cities have doubled their efforts by expanding their cycling infrastructure, sidewalks, public transport networks and other approaches to reduce car use.
Are these approaches really making a difference? The results are mixed.
An analysis of cycling data in the United States by mobility analytics firm StreetLight Data showed cycling activity in the summer of 2020 was up 10% from pre-pandemic levels. In the United States, only about 1% of trips are made by bicycle, according to the 2017 National Household Travel Survey.
âThe progress we’re seeing in places like Minneapolis deserves to be commended and it’s definitely something we absolutely shouldn’t ignore,â Freemark said.
âBut I think it’s worth pointing out that we need to change entire metropolitan areas, not just individual cities,â he added, drawing attention to the suburbs, which are home to most of the residents of the city. United States, which still tends to rely heavily on the car.
Now is the time, said Reich, to start thinking about what the American city should look like in the 21st century.
âWe don’t have to look like Amsterdam, or Copenhagen, or Berlin. We can become sustainable and build sustainable public transport, cycling and walking cities in our own way, âsaid Reich.
Researchers in fields such as transport and urban planning stress that it is not new technology or solutions to be invented that are in demand. Transient-focused development, more thoughtful planning and electric transport are all possible for cities large and small. But what is needed is political will.
âYou can see cities with a lot less resources than the United States,â said Reich, pointing to a place like Jakarta, Indonesia, where in 10 years the city has built an extensive public transport network serving a million people. people per day. Likewise, Bogota, Colombia has such an efficient network of bicycle lanes that 7% of all trips are made by bicycle, the highest rate in the Americas.
And even in the United States, transit agencies are moving forward with plans to serve bus rapid transit (BRT) lanes or traffic lights that prioritize transit vehicles, thus helping to make public transit the best option, rather than driving.
âWe have the technology. We just need the political will. Because so often some of these bus rapid transit plans are just watered down and not constructed in a way that actually arranges transit, as compared to cars, âReich said.