So I have been wondering for quite some time about the real numbers different transportation CO2 emissions and I had a very difficult time finding what I felt to be complete and accurate information.


If you know me, or have been reading the blog for a while, you probably know that I worked in psychology/psychiatry research for many years before leaving to write this blog and be a Virtual Assistant. I chose to go into the research field because I like the science of how humans go about their lives. Today, I get to share some travel science with you!


Many of us have seen graphs showing transportation CO2 emissions in total, but to me that just didn’t seem to be the full picture. A bicycle is meant to hold one, or maybe two, people. Cars are generally said to hold around four people, etc. I wanted to know how the CO2 calculations look like when broken down when compared to the number of people each form of transportation holds? I was also looking for a graph that included multiple modes of transportation, not just road vehicles which are commonly available.  I spent hours searching the internet and after sending off a couple of emails asking where others found their data I got referred to: CO2EmissieFactoren and with the amazing power of automatically translated websites I was able to find the information I was looking for!


As you can tell, I got really excited when I found this website and created my graph and today I get to share it with you. ?


This graph shows the amount of carbon dioxide produced per person for the transportation method. WTT means Well to Tank and takes into account the amount of energy required to produce the fuel, transport it an average distance, and then be used by the consumer. I chose WTT so we could look at not just each transportation method divided by number of people, but also the transportation method over its full cycle of using fuel and producing CO2. I had no idea when I was inputting the data into an Excel spreadsheet how the graph was going to turn out, but I was really curious to see how it compared to the graphs I had become accustomed to seeing (Google: Transport CO2 Emission Comparison, if you are interested).


Go ahead and study it for just a moment. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. ?


Transportation CO2 Emissions Graph


Is there anything that jumps out at you? As I expected, large vehicles produce more CO2 than their smaller counterpoints, but look at the plane travel?!? Holy Moly, could that be correct? I ran the numbers again, just to make sure I didn’t transpose a number, or look at the wrong column or something. Nope, exactly the same. I also discovered that planes contribute on average about 2% of the annual total CO2 emissions for the planet, which reinforces the graph above.


As a person who tries to focus on living sustainably I have often felt guilty, or like a fraud, for traveling especially overseas. Looking at the data on this graph shows me that yes, I should feel a little guilty and always be working to find ways to improve my travel, but the ten years that my husband and I lived with one car and used the St. Louis MetroLink system and/or walked many places has been vastly important in reducing my overall lifetime carbon footprint. Woohoo!!!!!


What are your thoughts, questions, concerns? Did anything jump out to you? Did you think of something I may have missed in this graph? Come on my fellow myth busters, let’s find ways to improve this graph.


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Join the conversation; your thoughts are welcome!