Transportation is the largest source of planet-warming greenhouse gases in the United States today and the bulk of those emissions come from driving in our cities and suburbs.
The map below shows a year’s worth of CO2 from passenger and freight traffic on every road in the Philadelphia Region.
Emissions from driving in the Philadelphia metro area grew faster than population between 1990 and 2017, which means emissions per person have increased.
These findings come from a New York Times analysis of new data released through Boston University’s Database of Road Transportation Emissions. The database provides the most detailed estimates available of local on-road CO2 over the past three decades. The map above shows emissions in 2017.
Even as the United States has reduced carbon dioxide emissions from its electric grid, largely by switching from coal power to less-polluting natural gas, emissions from transportation have remained stubbornly high.
The bulk of those emissions, nearly 60 percent, come from the country’s 250 million passenger cars, S.U.V.s and pickup trucks, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Freight trucks contribute an additional 23 percent.
Reducing emissions from driving has been a big challenge, said Conor Gately, who led the project mapping CO2 on America’s roads as a postdoctoral researcher at Boston University. Emissions dipped during the recession of the late 2000s, but have been ticking back up since 2013.
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