Which Form of Travel Is The Key To A Greener Future?

Which Form of Travel Is The Key To A Greener Future?

by Abi Gebbie, Lucy Thomson and Leah Hunter

Flying Plane Landing - Free photo on Pixabay

What impact do planes have on the environment?

It’s a well known fact by now that public transport impacts climate change, however, how much do aeroplanes and air travel actually contribute to the growing crisis?

Research has shown that commercial air travel contributes to around 3% to 4% of the total amount of greenhouse gases that are released in the United States. The greenhouse gases that air travel emits is what contributes to global warming.

The United Nations expect carbon dioxide (an extremely common greenhouse gas) emissions from air travel to triple by the year 2050. Further research has also shown that these emissions may grow even faster than they have been previously.

What is being done to help?

Thanks to Greta Thunberg, a climate activist from Sweden, a “flying shame” movement had been started before the pandemic in order to promote greener options for travel such as rail. There have been signs that this was actually effective at reducing the level or air travel in Germany and Sweden. This was so influential that lawmakers in France have been considering putting a ban on short flights that can be replaced by train travel.

Synthetic fuel is the key to reducing carbon dioxide emissions when flying and steps have already been taken to achieve this. Airbus claims it has plans to build a zero emissions plane by the year 2035. This may unlock a future of Carbon Dioxide free air travel and it is a step closer to lessening the threat of climate change.

Boat Fishing Sea - Free photo on Pixabay

What impact do boats have on the environment?

Boats can take you anywhere you need to go as long as there’s water. HOWEVER, they emit a large cocktail of toxic greenhouse gases including but not limited to CO2 and NOx. The amount of gas emitted depends on the boat size, age, average cruising speed and the length of the trip. Just as every method of public transport it has its advantages and disadvantages.


Using boats tends to have lower carbon footprint compared to other modes of transportation. Ship transport generally produces lower emissions even on longer voyages. This makes sea transport much more environmentally friendly compared to other forms of transportation.


The shipping industry is responsible for a significant proportion of the global climate change problem. More than 3% of the global carbon dioxide emission can be attributed to ocean going ships. This is an amount comparable to major carbon-emitting countries and this industry is continuing to grow rapidly!

Some high-speed ferries use double the fuel of conventional ships, making them much worse than planes for carbon emissions. The UK government’s calculations suggest a long-haul plane emits 110g of carbon dioxide per passenger kilometre, a medium-sized car with two occupants would emit around the same amount. Furthermore, a train would emit 60g of carbon dioxide and a car passenger ferry emits 133.2g of carbon dioxide.

Virgin Trains Pendolino (UK) | Virgin Trains' Pendolino Brad… | Flickr

What impact do trains have on the environment?

You’ll be glad to hear that trains are actually the most environmentally friendly form of transport (besides walking, obviously)! In comparison to cars and planes, trains release 66%-75% less carbon. Trains are also a lot more sustainable than any other form of public transport. However, the type of train can make a difference on how much carbon is released. The different type of trains are electric and diesel. Electric trains release 20%-30% less carbon than diesel trains do. This is due to them being powered by renewable energy, as an electric engine is used. These are becoming more common around Europe. Diesel trains are more likely to cause pollution, but they are still better for the environment than other forms of public transport!

Why should I travel by train?

  • It is convenient and easy for people to use.
  • It is a simple and easy way to protect the environment.
  • It is more efficient.

Glasgow Metro Plan

First proposed back in 2019, the Glasgow metro system plans to implement more trams and trains that will make transport more accessible all over the city. The first major project would include Glasgow airport being connected to Paisley Gilmour Street station. The line would also include a stop at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, with Glasgow Central and Queen Street also being attached to the line. This will give people more opportunities to take trains and trams which are more environmentally friendly compared to cars and other forms of public transport. This is a step that will hopefully help Glasgow become a net zero city by 2030.




The big stink: how much do trains really emit?

Why Traveling By Train Is Environmentally Friendly


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