WASHINGTON, December 16—On-road transportation has the greatest negative effect on climate of any economic sector, especially in the short term. Cutting on-road transportation climate and air-pollutant emissions would be unambiguously good for the climate and public health, writes Deborah Gordon in a new paper. She calls on policy makers to reform the transportation sector in a way that reduces carbon emissions and increases efficiency. This is necessary for the United States to maintain its leadership position in the global economy.

Key Recommendations:

  • Understand transportation’s unique threat. Transportation’s nearly exclusive use of petroleum fuel results in high levels of the principal gases causing warming and minimal emissions of the short-term cooling agents that counterbalance warming.
  • Transition to near-zero emissions. The United States and other nations must quickly move to using cars and trucks that emit as few climate-warming gases as possible, largely through low-carbon electrification for plug-in vehicles.
  • Change the transportation culture. A focus on technological innovation, rational pricing, and sound investments that expand low-carbon mobility choices will help fundamentally transform vehicles, fuels, and travel behavior.

The on-road transportation sector is clearly “a major contributor to climate change; therefore, it should be the focus of new policies to mitigate warming,” Gordon writes. “Government must lead this effort as the market alone cannot precipitate the transition away from cars and oil, which dominate this sector.”



Deborah Gordon is a nonresident senior associate in Carnegie’s Energy and Climate Program, where her research focuses on climate, energy, and transportation issues in the United States and China. Since 1996 she has been an author and policy consultant specializing in transportation, energy, and environmental policy for non-profit, foundation, academic, public, and private sector clients. From 1996 to 2000 she co-directed the Transportation and Environment Program at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and from 1989 to 1996 she founded and then directed the Transportation Policy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. She is the author of Two Billion Cars (Oxford University Press, January 2009).

The Carnegie Energy & Climate Program engages global experts working in energy technology, environmental science, and political economy to develop practical solutions for policy makers around the world. The program aims to provide the leadership and the policy framework necessary for minimizing risks stemming from global climate change and reducing competition for scarce resources.

Press Contact: David Kampf, 202-939-2233, pressoffice@ceip.org