Environmental activist group Environment Ohio published a report in October that outlined the harm of carbon emissions in transportation and included a series of steps to resolve the problem of increased emissions.
The planet is currently experiencing all-time high temperatures, and transportation in particular is now a major source of concern for increased climate change. For the first time, transportation has surpassed electricity as the largest contributor to carbon gas emissions. In Ohio alone, transportation makes up 26 percent of global warming emissions.
“Our larger campaign is to get the United States to transition to clean renewable energy for the next one hundred years and to make sure that we cut 80 percent of our carbon emissions by the year 2050,” said Sam Gerard, an advocate for the Environment Ohio campaign. “Scientists have kind of pegged this as being the point of no return, so if we’re still contributing a lot of carbon to our atmosphere by that point then there may be irreparable damage done to the environment. Our objective is to make sure our warming goes down to pre-industrial standards.”
While the U.S. joined a tariff climate agreement in 2014 that commits world leaders to reducing carbon emissions, Frontier Group policy analyst Alana Miller said there should be more focus in government on reducing them.
“Climate concerns should be considered when making transportation decisions,” Miller said. “We should be prioritizing funding for low-carbon transportation but most of our transportation decisions, especially at the federal level, often make global warming worse.”
The published plan, which is Environment Ohio’s first objective aimed directly at altering transportation,
outlines 50 steps toward reducing carbon emissions in transportation. It emphasizes putting alternative transportation at the forefront of both government funding and public discussions, as well as rewarding use of carbon-free transportation solutions. These solutions include sales tax exemptions for motor fuels and possible monetary rewards for using low-carbon transportation alternatives.
Other areas, particularly in states like California and New York with large urban areas, have already begun to introduce reduced carbon transportation. Columbus is also beginning to offer potential for a shift to carbon free transportation.
“Columbus is a medium-size city, located in the heart of the U.S., and has been economically growing steadily since mid-2009, which is far above the U.S. average,” said Rodrigo Perez Silva, graduate teaching associate and Ph.D. student at Ohio State University. “The combination of a growing and vibrant city, with a relatively large population, and with an important participation of college students and high-educated workers, facilitates the introduction of these types of changes.”
At its core, the success of Environment Ohio’s plan relies on the efforts of both local and state governments and also residents who demand change.
“Most of the work we’re focusing on right now is just community outreach and getting citizens to recognize that there is a very practical reason behind clean renewable energy,” Gerard said.
In addition to raising awareness about the issue, the group wants to guide people to
demand changes in their transportation systems, particularly with public transportation, biking and walking. An increased demand for these services could cause policymakers to shift funding to meet citizen demands rather than putting it toward things like highways, which lead to increased carbon emissions.
While citizen action is an important part of the solution, Environment Ohio’s plan remains aimed at policymakers and offering clear changes they can make to their community.
“The report really crafts out a great step-by-step procedure that policy makers should take to build up transportation infrastructure for their city or community,” Gerard said. “Policy-makers can go as fast or as slow as possible to meet that carbon free transportation message. Really embracing that and getting on board with that quickly is going to be really critical.”
Many parts of Environment Ohio’s plan remain long-term solutions that will take time and legislative action to fully enact. But many steps can also be aided almost immediately by simply raising awareness and creating individual for new services.
“I think that the first step was to put this on the table,” Perez said. “To call people’s, but especially policy makers’ attention to the fact that we can think of alternative, greener systems of transportation, and also to change the way we want to plan our cities and people’s lives.”