Pollution from our nation’s cars, buses, trucks and trains is taking America dangerously off track to meeting climate goals, according to a new report written by Frontier Group and released by Environment Missouri Research & Policy Center. 50 STEPS TOWARD CARBON-FREE TRANSPORTATION: Rethinking U.S. Transportation Policy to Fight Global Warming concludes that 21st century transportation policy must quickly shift to new priorities, guided by a central goal of curbing climate-altering carbon pollution.
Environment Missouri released the report in front of St. Louis City Hall on Monday, Oct. 24th. Marielle Brown of Trailnet and Roger Lewis of Saint Louis University spoke at the event.
“Our daily commutes are cooking the planet, but they don't have to. We have the technology and skilled workforce to build cleaner cars and the tools to give Americans cleaner choices for getting from point A to point B,” said Taylor Hale, Campaign Organizer with Environment Missouri. “As a state, Missouri needs to support cleaner cars, invest in more public transit, and foster communities that enable people to walk and bike safely. We have solutions, now we just need the right policies to make it happen.”
The planet right now is the hottest it has been in 115,000 years. Increasingly severe weather events, like Hurricane Matthew, underscore the importance of reducing carbon pollution that fuels global warming. We are feeling the effects of this change right here in St. Louis. Between our record high October temperatures, flooding last December, and our dangerous levels of air pollution- global warming is happening right here and right now in Missouri.
Transportation is the leading cause of global warming pollution in the country and America’s transportation system produces more carbon pollution per capita than any other country. Yet, many of the nation’s existing transportation policies are a roadblock to critical climate goals.
In Missouri, transportation makes up 27 percent of our global warming emissions. To get on the right track, Missouri will need to shift its transportation policies: currently Missouri spends only 56 cents per person per year on public transportation. This needs to change.
“America’s transportation policies were created generations ago, when few people understood the implications of global warming. Now we do understand – and our approach to transportation must change,” said Tony Dutzik, Senior Policy Analyst with Frontier Group and author of the report. “The good news is that we have an ever-growing set of tools – including technologies that we couldn’t have imagined even a decade ago – that can put us on a path to zero-carbon transportation, if we get the policy right.”
The report highlights existing policies – from excessive spending on highway expansion to outdated rules that hamper transportation innovations – that hold America back in the fight against global warming. It also proposes 50 common-sense policy solutions that can reduce the risk of global warming and benefit communities across the country by incentivizing alternatives to driving, supporting the growth of walkable communities, and ensuring that all cars on the road are as clean as possible.
Among the policy solutions proposed in the report are the following:
- Putting low-carbon transportation options at the front of the line for public funding.
- Phasing out polluting vehicles and fuels through stronger fuel efficiency standards and electric cars.
- Supporting the creation of climate-friendly communities, allowing every Missourian safe and easy access to public transit, biking and walking.
- Fostering innovation to create opportunities for new transportation options, like car sharing and other forms of shared mobility.
“Global warming isn’t just about rising temperatures”, said Roger D. Lewis, Professor and Director of the Environmental Health Research Laboratory at Saint Louis University, “it’s about effects of those overall higher temperatures…You see it in your children when they have a hard time breathing, or deal with asthma attacks on a bad pollution day. We’ve also seen climate manifest with extreme heat waves, which have doubled in this city over the past sixty years. Let’s make a clear signal to our federal, state, and local governments that we want action on climate change by rethinking our strategy on mass transportation – so that we here in St. Louis can be doing something about the public health impacts that we are witnessing”
Environment Missouri is already working to shift away from dirty power and towards clean renewable energy like wind and solar. When it comes to transportation, Missouri needs to provide more alternatives to driving by supporting walkable and bikeable communities, connecting our cities with high-speed rail, and cleaning up the cars we do drive by strengthening vehicle fuel standards and transitioning our cars from oil to 100% clean renewable electricity.
Environment Missouri and other advocates urged state and federal decision-makers to move forward with climate-friendly transportation.
“How do we get people out of cars? “, asked Marielle Brown of Trailnet, a private non-profit that has been working to improve walking and biking in St. Louis for 28 years. “It is self evident that walking and biking are carbon free transportation. We need towns and neighborhoods were walkable neighborhoods are legal and supported We also have to reduce the transportation infrastructure, including large roads and parking, that add distance and danger between place. When we look at the roads next to us today, there are 5 lanes, plus parking, for moving cars quickly, yet there is no space for bicycles and pedestrians are given a relatively small sliver on the sides. To get people walking, we need to reverse our priorities… we need a total transformation of the way we think about transportation.”
“Missouri needs put low carbon transportation first in public funding, and not continue to singularly prioritize highways”, concluded Hale. “Missouri spends over 1,000 times more on highways per capita than public transit. As a state, we need to re-think and reallocate our transportation spending to focus on clean transportation in order to cut carbon emissions.”
The full report can be on the Frontier Group Website.
Environment Missouri is the statewide, citizen-funded advocacy group working for a cleaner, greener, healthier future.