Lifestyle and Travel Changes Could Curb Carbon Emissions

A new study conducted by scientists at Oxford University has revealed that carbon dioxide transport emissions could be reduced by small lifestyle and travel changes. This effect could be equivalent to, if not more than, that achieved through transport technology revolution and electric vehicles.

The study, which was recently reported in Energy Efficiency, suggested that small lifestyle changes can provide rapid results for climate change when compared to the gradual transition to electric vehicles and phasing out of traditional diesel and petrol vehicles in Scotland, UK.

Scotland has committed itself to achieve reductions in carbon emissions by 80% of the 1990 levels by 2050. For transport, this includes international aviation and shipping which makes the targets more difficult to achieve.

The study was led by Dr Christian Brand, Senior Research Fellow and Associate Professor at the Oxford School of Geography and Environment, Environmental Change Institute and Transport Studies Unit, in association with colleagues Jillian Anable from the University of Leeds and Craig Morton from the University of Loughborough.

This team of researchers investigated the way in which possible changes to the way people travel could reduce energy use and emissions in Scotland in the next 30 years, considering the five-year carbon budgets up to 2050 and further.

Our study explores how Scotland might achieve these targets in the transport sector.  We find that both lifestyle change—such as making fewer and shorter journeys, sharing existing journeys, or shifting to walking, cycling and clean public transport—and a comprehensive strategy around zero emission technologies are needed, but that they have limits to meeting our CO2 targets, in particular beyond 2030."

Dr Christian Brand, Oxford University

The outcomes of the study indicate that carbon emissions can be curbed in accordance with the United Nation’s 1.5C Climate Change Agreement only by prioritizing both demand- (cultural, social, and lifestyle change) and supply-side (new technology) transport solutions. Such a change could lead to huge co-benefits to human health as well as the NHS.

The newfound urgency of ‘cleaning up our act’ since the Paris Climate Change Agreement in 2016 and Dieselgate scandal suggests that we cannot just wait for the technology fix."

Dr Christian Brand, Oxford University

It has been a tradition for governments to prioritize technology fixes and supply-side transport solutions over the carbon emission problem.

However, the researchers propose that a long-term carbon and air quality emission-reducing approach should take both demand- and supply-side transport solutions into account, to ensure highest chances of success. They stated that the change will have to be initiated by industry, policymakers, and consumers alike.

We need to look at how we can inspire and support consumer lifestyle changes — in travel patterns, mode and vehicle choice, vehicle occupancy — to be in with a chance of reducing our carbon emissions in line with legislated targets and travelling on the ‘Road to Zero’ faster, further and more flexible.”

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