The Effect of Your Car’s Carbon Emission

Written by Carly Hallman

For many years now, scientists and others have been raising concerns about climate change and the potential consequences of the warming of the earth. An excessive amount of carbon in the atmosphere contributes to global warming, with carbon emissions from things such as factories and power plants being a major contributor to increased levels of atmospheric carbon. However, automobile emissions are another major source of carbon. They also increase pollution levels, which can lead to all manner of health problems. Understanding automobile carbon emission and what car owners can do to reduce it will go a long way toward addressing the aforementioned issues.

What Is in Car Emissions?

Carbon emissions include a number of different chemicals and particulates that are produced when fuel is burned in an engine. Some of the major substances found in a car’s exhaust include carbon dioxide, ozone, and carbon monoxide. Other chemicals often found in exhaust gasses include benzene and nitrogen oxides. Many of these chemicals serve an important purpose in different parts of the atmosphere, but they can have bad consequences when human beings inhale them directly.

Health Effects of Emissions

Vehicle emissions have a number of harmful effects on human health. Although people with healthy lungs are affected by these chemicals, individuals with lung problems are at a particularly high risk of being harmed by car emissions. Those who suffer from conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) experience worsening symptoms when they are exposed to excessive amounts of car exhaust. The elderly and young children are also at a higher risk of having an adverse reaction to car exhaust than other members of the population.

Many of the chemicals found in car emissions have been identified as carcinogens. Thus, exposure to car emissions increases the risk of getting certain cancers. Some experts have suggested that about half of all cancers related to outdoor air pollution can be tied to vehicle emissions. Reduce emissions and there will be fewer cancer-causing chemicals in the air that people breathe every day. Furthermore, irritants in car exhaust can cause the obstruction of airways and other breathing problems and contribute to other health issues. Diabetics who live in areas that have frequent smog (the combination of fog and emissions) or who otherwise encounter a lot of air pollution have higher mortality rates due to heart disease, than diabetics who live in places where the air is cleaner.

Car Emissions and Global Climate Change

Carbon traps heat in the atmosphere, preventing it from escaping from the earth. Scientists theorize that this has led to a warmer earth over the past century, increasing the odds of severe weather patterns, droughts, and other problems. Consequently, governments around the world have made it a goal to reduce their carbon emissions. Reducing emissions from cars and other vehicles is key to this effort. In the United States alone, public and private transportation account for 27 percent of all carbon emissions. Carbon emission reduction in the U.S. and in other countries with many vehicle owners will not be successful if drivers do not help out.

Easy Ways to Reduce Vehicle Emissions

Fortunately, it is not too difficult for individuals to reduce the carbon emissions from their vehicles. First, existing vehicle owners who are not planning on buying a new car any time soon should focus on their driving behavior. Driving only when absolutely necessary and combining many errands into one trip will reduce driving time, and less time spent on the road means reduced carbon emissions. Families and individuals who own more than one automobile can also consider getting rid of extra cars and other vehicles. This usually reduces the amount of time the owner spends on the road.

Second, all vehicle owners should keep their cars properly maintained. Have the exhaust system on a vehicle checked for leaks, and install a pollution control system if there isn’t one in place or the existing one needs replacing. Such steps will reduce the amount of chemicals released into the atmosphere.

Finally, vehicle owners should make sure to drive as efficiently as possible. Increased weight leads to more fuel use, so vehicle owners should not carry unnecessary weight in the trunk or passenger sections of their vehicles. Consider switching to a vehicle that gets more miles to the gallon and thereby uses less fuel and produces less emissions. These easy steps will go a long way to helping solve the problem of excessive carbon emission.