Humanity’s collective carbon footprint is gigantic and spans a wide range of sectors. Electricity generation and industry were two of the leading sources of greenhouse gas emissions in 2017 according to the EPA, accounting for a combined 50% of CO2 emissions in the US. Commercial & residential and agriculture were also major contributors.
However, topping the list was the transportation industry, which released 28.9% of the country’s emissions that year, primarily from burning gasoline and diesel as fuel sources.
That’s actually positive news in a somewhat roundabout way says technology maven Lindsay Guion, the CEO of management consulting firm GUION PARTNERS, which works with high-profile clients in the technology, entertainment, sports, and media spaces.
Guion points out that with other sectors, there is no clear pathway to dramatically reducing our carbon footprint. Not so with the transportation sector.
Our reliance on power generation and industry aren’t going anywhere, and while greater adoption of clean energy sources like solar and wind will be capable of easing some of those burdens, they’re unlikely to make much of a dent.
In fact, back in 2010, NASA predicted that the emissions released by power and industry would both skyrocket between 2020 and 2100, while vehicle emissions would rise at a much slower rate, presumably due to greater electric vehicle adoption somewhat offsetting the overall increase in the transportation sector (that includes air travel, which is projected to double within the next 20 years alone).
Then there’s agriculture, the need for which isn’t likely to lessen any time soon short of a major vegan revolution, and whose emissions aren’t even caused by anything we can really control.
Electric Vehicles Ride to the Rescue
Given the limitations in reducing our carbon footprint in other sectors, it’s somewhat ideal that the greatest progress might come from the sector that is currently the biggest carbon offender.
And while the overall emissions levels are close between transportation, power, and industry, transportation is actually much worse than those numbers suggest, as it doesn’t release anywhere near the same amount of climate cooling aerosols that power and industry do says Lindsay Guion.
Industry was actually not a net contributor of greenhouse gases at all when factoring in the amount of aerosols and sulfates that were also released due to its operations.
While NASA predicted that emissions from on-road vehicles would double over the next 80 years, even that relatively modest increase (given the vast timeframe) will never occur should EV adoption be great enough.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that may be the case, modeling for EV sales to account for 57% of all vehicle sales by 2040, compared to just 3% in 2019. At that rate, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to suggest that gas-powered vehicles will be completely off the market by the end of the century in much of the world.
Nor will the actual transportation industry offset the gains made in commercial vehicles, as Lindsay Guion points out that electric semi-trucks are also close to hitting the market and should enjoy wide adoption given their tremendous long-term savings on diesel.
Whether it will be enough to win the overall climate war remains to be seen, but the potential is certainly there for electric cars to do their part in obliterating the absolute worst carbon offenders on the planet.