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Posted Wed Aug 4 2010: from Environmental Science & Technology:
Specific Climate Impact of Passenger and Freight Transport
An unambiguous ranking can be established for the freight transportation of the year 2000: The specific climate impact of air transport is 3 to 42 times higher, for a light truck it is 2 to 8 times higher than average truck transport. Rail transport of heavy goods has a 4 to 10 times lower specific climate impact than trucking, while it varies from negligible to half to a similar impact for volume products. Ship transport has by far the lowest climate impact: It exerts 5 to 10 to 30 times less warming per transport work than trucking and is even cooling on shorter time scales. This ranking holds for both climate metrics and both measures for transport work; most importantly it is robust for the time horizons considered. For the passenger travel of the year 2000 the modes with clearly lower specific climate impact than car travel can be readily identified: Rail travel has at least a factor 4 lower specific impact and is cooling on shorter times, bus and coach travel has 2 to 5 times lower specific impact, while travel with two- or three-wheelers has up to a factor 2 lower specific climate impact than car travel. Air travel results in a lower temperature change per passenger-kilometer than car travel on the long run; the integrated radiative forcing of air travel is on short- to medium time horizons much higher than for car travel. Per passenger-hour traveled however, aviations climate impact is a factor 6 to 47 higher than the impact from car travel.
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'Doc Michael says:
So the rule of thumb is: If driving takes 6 times longer than the air travel time, then I'm still damaging the climate more than I should.

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