EVERY TIME I’VE GONE TO THE gas station over the past few months, it’s been like a breath of fresh air — even at it’s most expensive, I’m still not paying much over $2 a gallon. It hasn’t been that cheap since I first started driving in 2001, and it’s allowed me to spend money on other things, or even to go on the occasional road trip.
But this isn’t necessarily a good thing: Americans drove more last year than they ever have before. Between the 300 million or so of us, we drove 3.15 trillion miles last year, which is the equivalent of driving to Pluto and back 337 times. Last year also happened to mark the hottest year on record, thanks to climate change. These two are not unrelated.
Transportation accounts for about 27% of total carbon emissions in the United States, and these carbon emissions are what’s fueling the heating of the planet. Just on Monday, the New York Times reported that sea level rise was at its fastest in 28 centuries, and that unless we slow down our carbon emissions in the next few decades, humans are possibly going to have to abandon some of our coastal cities as soon as the 22nd century. At the same time, mosquito-borne outbreaks like Zika are being fueled by the fact that climate change is expanding the habitats of mosquitoes.
So yes: the cheap gas is nice. In the short term. But the entire climate change crisis has been brought about by this same short-term thinking. Even though it’s cheap to drive a car, still try to occasionally take the bus, ride the train, walk, or bike whenever you can — it could literally save the world.