Drivers of Pollution

Date: October 16, 2015

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By W. Spencer King

Nearly ninety percent of Americans drive to work everyday, the commute bookending the workday with traffic, red lights and monotony.

Greenhouse gases contribute to climate change and smog, which are detrimental to both the environment and human health. These gases come from many sources including industry and electricity generation, but nearly every commuter is involved with one of the largest factors of greenhouse gas emissions: gasoline-powered vehicles.

Among the greenhouse gases from the transportation sector, carbon dioxide traps heat in the Earth’s atmosphere and is a centerpoint in the discussion about global warming. Methane affects the upper atmosphere by degrading the ozone layer, and nitrous oxide also poses a significant threat to ozone layer depletion. Fluorinated gases have a large global warming potential; they leak from refrigerants used in vehicle air-conditioning units and can stay in the atmosphere for decades.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge. Graphics by Maggie Sherwood

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