What are the real CO2 emitters among the means of transportation?
The current climate debate is largely about the ecological footprint of our transportation systems. While driving the car and flying are frowned up by environmentalists, rail travel is largely regarded as the more environmentally friendly option. However, this debate only takes into account the emission gases during use and ignores the necessary infrastructure.
The real CO2 emitters
How can we find out which means of transport are actually the most environmentally friendly? Prof. Dr. Andreas Herrmann (ICI-HSG) and Dr. Klaus Radermacher (KRBE) deal with this question in their article in the Swiss business magazine Bilanz. They point out that the four modes of transport road, rail, air and water should be considered holistically, taking into account not only emissions during use, but also the respective infrastructure. These include junctions (railway stations, airports, car parks), paths (road network, rail network, etc.) and control systems (signal boxes, traffic lights, etc.).
An example of the construction of a railway infrastructure illustrates that the journey with the ICE from Cologne to Frankfurt emits several million tons of CO2 during the construction of the railway line before the first train can even travel. This means that even if 500 million passengers have travelled the route after 35 years, CO2 emissions per capita are still between 4 and 6 kg.
The authors also discuss the infrastructure needed for buses and cars, which also causes significant CO2 emissions. This includes the construction of motorways, entrances and exits, rest areas, bridges, crash barriers and much more.
The need for a holistic discussion
Prof. Dr. Andreas Herrmann and Dr. Klaus Radermacher would like to draw attention to the fact that one or the other means of transport should not be demonized per se. Rather, it is time to have a sensible and holistic discussion about the ecological footprint of transport systems by looking at the CO2 emissions of the overall systems.
You can read the whole article here.
Photo by Dustin Tramel on Unsplash