MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
As the worldwide transportation industry seeks to maximize profits, it may be racing toward its own demise.
The transportation sector is a major contributor to climate-changing carbon dioxide emissions, and, worldwide, it’s also one of the most vulnerable sectors to the effects of climate change, according to a new report.
In other words, climate change could mean “sun kinks” could warp train tracks in the heat, airplanes will be more expensive to fly, highway surfaces could soften in heat waves, roadways and bridges could be washed away in rising seas and storm surges, and storms in the open ocean could increase the cost and risks associated with shipping.
Those are the findings of a new report, “Climate Change: Implications for Transport,” released Monday by Cambridge University and sustainable business advocacy group Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) outlining what the conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ’s Fifth Assessment Report mean for global transportation.
Even more ominously, AP states:
The global transportation sector contributes about 25 percent of the world’s energy-related carbon emissions, and those emissions could double to 50 percent if countries and businesses don’t act soon to slash emissions, the report says.
Air travel is becoming ever more common, fish caught in Alaska can be on a dinner table in Miami the next evening and internal combustion engine automobiles are still the king of the road (as electric cars are only beginning to make slight inroads). Increased transportation speed and access is a large contributor to making the world more globally connected.
All that speed and convenience, however, may come to a grinding halt. Why? Because the increased use of fossil-fuel powered-transportation quickens the pace of global warming - and the transportation industry may end up a victim of its own greed. With some exceptions, its disinterest in seeking alternative energy sources will, according to the Cambridge University report, be its undoing:
More than half of global production of crude oil is used for transportation, and 94 percent of the energy used to fuel trains, airplanes, highway vehicles and ships is supplied by crude oil, according to the report.
If those emissions aren’t slashed, the report paints a bleak picture of how roads, rails, bridges, shipping and aviation could be affected.
Roadways could be impacted in a variety of ways: Asphalt pavement could be softened in heat waves, requiring resurfacing with more durable materials. Flooding in low-lying areas is likely to force highway departments to improve drainage on roads and maintain them more frequently. Bridges may need to be retrofitted to withstand greater flooding, costing $250 billion in the U.S. through 2065.
Railroads could be affected in similar ways, the report says, but high temperatures during heat waves could buckle tracks, and urban subway systems could be more exposed to flooding in the same way Hurricane Sandy severely damaged the New York City subway and New Jersey’s PATH train tunnels in 2012, paralyzing the city.
Shipping is highly vulnerable to climate change, too, as droughts could force inland shippers to use smaller vessels, especially in the Great Lakes, and inland waterways could be useable for fewer days, according to the report.
The problems accelerate even further, putting aviation at risk due to a variety of factors caused by the deterioration of the atmosphere - primarily thanks to carbon dioxide. In the event of crossing the threshold of climactic breakdown - which we may have already achieved - it could be only a matter of time before the ways in which we travel are dramatically altered by the impact of global warming.
Unfortunately, corporations - and many people - don't look beyond their next destination, whether it may be a supermarket or a vacation in Hawaii.
However, whether we pay attention or not, the long-term fate of our planet is in question. This is due to a willful continuation of transportation energy policies that are destroying the earth upon which we live and the places to which we journey.
Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.