Skip to Content

Georgia Climate Project: How will future transportation systems impact greenhouse gas emissions?

This week’s question from the Georgia Climate Project’s Roadmap deals with the impacts of our transportation system on emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Transportation is a big input to these emissions and how our regional and local methods of moving goods and people around evolve in the future will affect how much of a contribution Georgia’s transportation makes to greenhouse warming. As technologies improve, the mix of emissions, both greenhouse gas and air pollutants like ozone and particulates, will change, and choices we make will affect the trajectory of climate over time, along with other decisions like how we produce energy. Remember, you can see all of the Roadmap questions at http://roadmap.georgiaclimateproject.org/.

25. What are the costs and benefits of changes in Georgia’s transportation systems and how will those changes impact greenhouse gas emissions?

Why this question is important: The U.S. transportation system is experiencing a period of dramatic technological change. New sources of propulsion, vehicle control, and system management have been developed across the nation (Anderson et al. 2016), and the transportation industry and profession is predicting substantive changes to transportation systems over the coming 30 years due to autonomous and connected vehicle operations (Fagnant and Kockelman 2015). Such changes could, in the short term, affect the manner in which people and freight movers use the transportation system, thus affecting emissions and energy use. Over the longerterm, these technologies and system management strategies could affect where and how people live, thus influencing other aspects of the environment. A long-term vision of how the transportation system for Georgia will operate and be used is needed to assess the likely consequences to GHG emissions (Bigazzi and Figliozzi 2013). Research is needed to examine the broader societal questions arising from these changes, for example the equity impacts on different Georgia populations, the impacts on rural areas versus urban areas, and additional economic costs associated with new forms of movement for people and goods.