Historical GHG Emissions: Transport Across All Regions

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The transport sector plays a central role in global energy use and GHG emissions. The energy usage of the transport sector amounts to approximately 26% of total world energy use. Approximately 23% of global GHG emissions come from this sector. The sector is fueled almost entirely by oil-based fuels (95%). Disaggregated by vehicle type, approximately 77% sector’s energy usage comes from road vehicles, 11% from air transport, 10% from shipping, and about 1.5% from rail transport. Emissions from the transport sector have increased by approximately 27% since 1990.

Growing urban decentralization is a core driver of increases in transport emissions. A large share of the world’s population now lives to “edge-cities”, creating a demand for personalized transport not easily met by large-scale public transit systems. Light vehicles have instead largely met this demand. Between 1950 and 1997, the world auto fleet grew five times faster than the population rate, from 50 million vehicles to 580 million vehicles, or more than 1000%.

Developments within the vehicle industry have also caused increases in transport sector carbon emissions. Advancements in automotive performance and size have largely been preferred to improvements in energy efficiency. Average North American vehicles in 2005 were 27% heavier, 30% faster, and 5% less fuel efficient than 1987 averages.

Quantifying the impact of aviation on radiative forcing is currently imprecise because aviation emissions have both warming and cooling properties. The effect of aviation on cirrus cloud enhancement is the greatest source of uncertainty, and is often excluded from scientific studies. A 2005 estimate attributed roughly 3% of anthropogenic radiative forcing to aviation.