Wednesday, January 03, 2007

"Cars Amount to Only 6% of Man-Made CO2"
Part of the: Common Arguments by Skeptics and Deniers series
http://img171.imageshack.us/img171/1971/tombn7.jpg
This argument has been made on digg, among a few other places. Nobody ever provides a source but I see this stat pop up somewhat often. If you find out who the initial source of this little factoid is please post in the comments section. Now it's time for us to R.T.F.R. Straight from the Department of Energy's report:
Although transportation is a vital part of the economy and is essential for everyday activities, it is also a significant source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In 2003, the transportation sector accounted for about 27 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions, up from 24.8 percent in 1990.
And now for a little fun with math. Lets see how big his/her goof was.
27 (DOE stat) / 6 (Denialist/Skeptic stat) * 100 = 450%
Which basically means this denialist/skeptic has error bars 450% larger then his facts. And to be honest his/her error bars are even larger than that because:
Estimates of GHG emissions do not include additional "lifecycle" emissions related to transportation, such as the extraction and refining of fuel and the manufacture of vehicles, which are also a significant source of domestic and international GHG emissions.
The simple act of driving around in America released a total of 1,958.6 million metric tons of CO2 in 2005. And transportation energy use is expected to increase 48 percent between 2003 and 2025. All of these statistics are for America. There are 6 billion rapidly developing people on the planet. It is quite a stretch to even imply that fossil fuel powered cars are not a threat to the environment. Again, if you know where this myth originated please post a link.

Update for clarification:
In 2003 the US emitted 1,848.8 Tg of CO2. Only 4.3 Tg of that is from electrical sources. Since almost all of our transportation (about 99.76%) comes is powered by oil I thought it was prudent to lump all oil powered forms of transportation together. If you want to limit the discussion to passenger vehicles I would suggest we change our number from 27% of total emissions to 17% of our total emissions. It's still a sizable sum. Still, if we can remove oil from privately owned light trucks (Ford F150's, Dodge Rams, etc) and passenger vehicles then we should be able to do the same with heavy duty vehicles. At that point 'cars' are responsible for 22.14% of our yearly CO2 emissions. The only question remaining is whether or not we can power our aircraft with some form of biofuel.

http://www.logicalscience.com/blog/CO2-emission-dist_300px.jpg

Source:
http://www.epa.gov/otaq/greenhousegases.htm
http://www.epa.gov/otaq/climate/420r06003summary.htm
http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/1605/ggrpt/index.html
EPA, Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the U.S. Transportation Sector
1990–2003
, pg 18
EPA 430-R-07-002, INVENTORY OF U.S. GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS AND SINKS:
1990 – 2005
, pg 29

29 comments:

John F said...

I did a modest amount of searching and couldn't even find the 6% figure mentioned. In fact, with a search for [cars OR automobiles CO2 6% OR "six percent" OR "6 percent"] the only place it came up in the first 300 entires was another post by the same guy on digg! :-) Since you say you've seen it, it must be mentioned by skeptics, but now I'm getting curious as to its origins.

Jonathan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J. S. - (Wacki) said...

I've seen it before. Heck Tim Ball claims NASA is scared that their rockets are causing global warming and CO2 is being used as a scapegoat. Here is a paper that made it through (extremely relaxed) peer review that claims CO2 is negligible:

Paper claims human CO2 emissions are negligible

Anonymous said...

The 6% figure is suppose to be the amount of CO2 US cars contribute to the global(man produced) CO2, not the amount US cars contribute to US CO2. Why does this matter? Man's contribution to global CO2 is about 3% of all sources. Thus US cars contribute 6% of the 3% or maybe .18% of the total(man made and none man made) global contribution of CO2. The US Congress wants to pass bills that will cost Americans almost $500 billion to reduce the US car contribution in half or a total global reduction of about .09% at best, for $500 billion. Is it worth it? Is there a better way? For $500 billion, we can finish fusion and have clean cheap energy, but no, that isn't what people want, they want wind, solar and corn which can not produce energy in the abundance we need.

John F said...

"The 6% figure is suppose to be the amount of CO2 US cars contribute to the global(man produced) CO2"

Well then, it doesn't seem like a very useful figure. The question is what percent of man-made CO2 do cars contribute worldwide.

Anonymous said...

An infinitesimal amount compared to natural sources.

Weston Harvey said...

The "transportation sector" is more than cars. It includes aircraft and other vehicles as well. Thus, your simple comparison with this 6% figure is not accurate.

Sparrow said...

Weston Harvey,

Thanks for the response. Oil is pretty much the sole source of energy for any form of transportation. If you can eliminate oil from one sector of transportation then it shouldn't be too hard to eliminate it from others. The only exception is aircraft, that is unless we start running planes on some processed form of biodiesel. In 2003 transportation emitted 1,814.8 Tg CO2. Only 4.3 of those were from electricity. About 1,200 Tg of the 1,800 Tg were from passenger vehicles. Even if you eliminate all other oil burning ground based vehicles the 6% argument is still off.

Anonymous said...

"The "transportation sector" is more than cars. It includes aircraft and other vehicles as well. Thus, your simple comparison with this 6% figure is not accurate."

Sir,
I believe you are mistaken about the topic, the statement is worded 'cars contribute, etc.' Since the sentence does not include the phrase 'transportation industry', it is indeed only speaking about cars. What I believe you mean to say is that counting automobile contributions to global CO2 is less important than considering the total of all man made CO2 contributions.

But in fact, globally, man made contributions total roughly 3% of all the CO2 produced in the world.
Still perhaps significant except for the fact that C02 comprises only .117% of all greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. The largest by far being naturally occurring water vapor that evaporates from our oceans(a process that makes the planet livable, because space is cold). The earth is indeed getting warmer, and it has been both colder and warmer in the past.

source:
http://www.geocraft.com/WVFossils/greenhouse_data.html

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