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Driving alone as bad for the environment as air travel

Last Update 06/04/2021

New research suggests that travelling alone by car has the same impact on global warming per person, as travelling by air.


New research suggests that travelling alone by car has the same impact on global warming per person, as travelling by air. 

The research, partly funded by the EU ECLIPSE project, calculated the impact of trips of between 500 and 1000 km, comparing aeroplanes, petrol and diesel cars, coaches, and trains. They looked at the impact on the climate over 20 and 100 year periods.

The results showed that travelling by aeroplane had the highest climate impact, followed by petrol cars, diesel cars and finally trains and coaches. Even in a completely full aeroplane, a single passenger would have an emission of 160-215g of CO2 per km. This is three to five times higher than for the average coach or train journey.

The number of passengers in a car makes a big difference to the climate impact. A journey by car with only one passenger had an equivalent impact to an average aeroplane flight. However, with three or more passengers, the impact per passenger was reduced to the same as if the trip was taken by train or coach. Small diesel cars performed particularly well; with two passengers, they had an impact lower than average train or coach travel.

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