Reducing traffic at 2008 Olympics yielded large cut in CO2
July 24, 2012
BOULDER—China’s Olympian attempt to improve air quality during the 2008 summer games did more than provide a healthier atmosphere for the athletes. It also demonstrated that widespread changes in transportation patterns could greatly reduce the threat of climate change.
New research by an international team of scientists led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) indicates that China’s restrictions on motor vehicles had the side benefit of dramatically cutting emissions of carbon dioxide by 24,000 to 96,000 metric tons (about 26,500 to 106,000 U.S. tons) during the event.
To put this in perspective, the authors note that this reduction by a single city represents more than one-quarter of 1 percent of the emissions cut that would be necessary worldwide, on a sustained basis, to prevent the planet from heating up by more than about 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of this century. That is the amount of heating generally considered to lead to major societal impacts.
While scientists have long known that reduced traffic would lead to lower carbon dioxide emissions, precise estimates for an actual urban area are difficult to calculate.