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Highways and Climate Change: Mitigation Strategies

Background

Pie chart: Light duty vehicles 58%. Freight trucks 21%. Aircraft 11%. Rail 2%. Marine 5%. Pipelines 2%. Other on-road 1%.
Source: US EPA, Inventory of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2012, April 2014 (includes international bunker fuels).

Tailpipe greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transportation sources accounted for 29 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions in 2012, and over 4 percent of global GHG emissions. Including other life cycle processes-such as the extraction and refining of fuel, the manufacture of vehicles and the construction and maintenance of infrastructure-the U.S. transportation sector account for almost 6 percent of global GHGs. The majority of transportation's operating emissions, totaling 58 percent, come from light-duty vehicles, followed by freight trucks at 21 percent and aircraft at 11 percent. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that without additional mitigation efforts beyond those in place today, and even with adaptation, warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts globally.

Mitigation Strategies

The strategies to reduce transportation GHG emissions are organized into four major groups. They include strategies to:

The largest reductions will result from changes in vehicle technology and fuels. However, growth in driving is projected to offset the GHG emissions savings from vehicle technology and fuel measures. Therefore, reductions are needed from all four of the strategies listed above. Transportation alternatives, paired with more efficient land use, are critical tools to reduce transportation-related GHG emissions.

FHWA Mitigation Resources

FHWA has developed several resources to help State DOTs and local agencies better analyze greenhouse gas emissions and energy use, evaluate GHG reduction strategies, and integrate climate change considerations into the transportation planning process.

Forthcoming Resources

Updated: 5/6/2015
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