Unfortunately, the path to a low-carbon future will probably never be a straight line. In January this year, it was reported that the US’s carbon dioxide emissions rose by an estimated 3.4% in 2018, the biggest increase in eight years. The uptick reversed a long-term trend; US fossil fuel emissions had fallen significantly since 2005 and declined in 2015, 2016 and 2017, partially because cheap natural gas and renewable energy have been rapidly displacing dirtier coal-fired power, the New York Times reported on Jan. 8.
Contributing factors included a weather-related spike in oil and gas heating, and strong overall US economic growth, which sent emissions from factories, planes and trucks soaring. “The US was already off track in meeting its Paris Agreement targets,” noted the Rhodium Group, which released the report. “The gap is even wider headed into 2019.”
Staying focused on what we, as individuals, can do to help mitigate large-scale climate damage can be challenging. But when it comes to keeping CO2 in check, virtually everyone has significant leverage – via your “ride.”
Transportation is now the US’s largest source of carbon emissions, notes the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), with personal vehicles the single greatest polluter in many locations across the US, including Connecticut. Passenger cars and light-duty trucks (i.e., sport vehicles, pickup trucks and minivans) contribute half of the CO2 emissions related to transportation; burning one gallon of gasoline creates about 20 pounds of CO2—which means the average vehicle creates roughly six to nine tons of CO2 each year, C2ES says.
Here are some ideas for cutting your transportation-related CO2 tonnage:
- Consider an all-electric or “hybrid” car: Vehicles entirely powered by electricity or combining electric power with a gasoline engine significantly cut fuel costs and emissions, and aremore cost efficient than ever. Attractive financial incentives are available in the form of a federal tax credit and, for Connecticut residents, the Connecticut Hydrogen and Electric Automobile Purchase Rebate program (CHEAPR). The Town of Fairfield has installed numerous EV charging stations around town, and more are planned.
- If you can’t go electric or hybrid just yet, look for a more fuel-efficient vehicle: Just switching from a vehicle that gets 20-mpg to one that gets 25-mpg reduces your greenhouse gas emissions by 1.7 tons annually, C2ES says. Check out the Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Vehicle Guide for tips on fuel-efficient vehicles of all kinds.
- If you aren’t ready to purchase a more efficient vehicle yet, follow these simple gas saving tips: Studies show that the average driver can improve his or her fuel economy by roughly 10%, which will not only reduce your CO2 emissions but also save money on your fuel costs. Check out the Department of Energy’sFuel Economyfact sheet for gas-saving tips.
- Take public transportation when you can and don’t forget the “greenest” transportation methods of all – biking and walking: Fairfield is doing its part, via the Town’s Complete Streets policy, meant to ensure that all of the Town’s “travel ways” are designed and maintained with the needs of all potential users in mind, including pedestrians, bicyclists, and people of all abilities. You can review the policy here. The added bonus: With more walking and biking, you’ll help boost not only the environment’s health, but your own fitness too.