Driving Down Emissions

Transportation, land use, and climate change
Source: Smart Growth America

The connection between transportation and climate is becoming better known, but there has always been a sense by policymakers and environmentalists that the amount people drive is outside of anyone’s control. As if the increase in driving is inexorable—a force of nature or, at least, economics, that is impossible to contain. Rarely do we look at the things governments are doing, at all levels, to make driving the easier choice, if not the only choice. As a result, we have this interesting and strange situation where public officials are chastising auto makers for not doing enough to improve vehicle efficiency even as they actively promote programs and investments that force people to drive more and farther every year. This is a hypocritical position that harms those officials’ abilities to lead us in a positive direction and increases emissions year-over-year.

These problems with the built environment (development patterns and the transportation system)requiring more driving also lead to cost burdens and limited economic opportunities that usually fall hardest on communities of color. The current laser focus on electrifying vehicles could lead to a future where we reduce emissions, while ignoring all other tools for near- or medium- term emissions reductions and leaving all of the generational inequities in place.

Back to Search Results