General medicine

A multi-institution team unveiled a new tool for understanding and controlling the health and climate impacts of shipping goods  a source not only of greenhouse gases but of soot and smog threatening our health. Therefore In the journal; Hertz Fellow Tami Bond (’95); Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Illinois; and her team presented an extensive computational model of the environmental impact of the American shipping industry.

The environmental impact

Unprecedented in its complexity; the model connects everything from the chemical intricacies of diesel exhaust to the geography and economics of our truck-dependent shipping infrastructure. Using the model to predict the warming and health impacts of American freight over the next 30 years; the team pointed to three policies which; Therefore  applied over the coming decades; could save up to 4,000 lives per year and cut the warming contributions of our shipping by a quarter.

The policies included a carbon tax ramping up to $100/ton over the next 30 years; compliance with existing maintenance regulations, and more compact urban development. The results showed that existing efficiency regulations will save up to 3,000 lives per year by 2050; and perfect compliance could save up to 1,000 more. The carbon tax; provides the vast majority of climate benefits, reducing both long- and short-term warming by nearly a quarter by itself.

Existing efficiency regulations

According to Bond; the study provides not only useful predictions of the impacts of these three policies; but also a model that  adapt and reused to inform other policy choices. “We designed this so it would be easy to run many more scenarios;” she said. “This way if people wanted to change things or explore assumptions, we’ve added the flexibility to do this.”

Recently, Bond discussed what is unique about this new model, how it can affect policy decision making, and the impact of pollution caused by the soot generated by the transportation industry. The edited conversation is below. Hertz Foundation: Anyone who drives on a highway is familiar with the black exhaust that comes out of a truck, but not everyone appreciates the environmental impact of this type of pollution. Why exactly does this matter.

Policy decision making

Bond: This soot – which we call black carbon – absorbs sunlight very effectively, trapping its heat in our atmosphere, so it’s a significant contributor to Earth’s warming, especially in the year after it’s emitted. And in the United States, a lot of this soot is coming from transportation  more specifically, diesel engines, because they make more black carbon compared to gasoline engines.
Especially in the United States, where we don’t have much passenger diesel, most of the diesel engines are used in freight. Policies that reduce freight activity will help both the long-term warming of CO2 and the short-term warming of black carbon. Hertz Foundation: Your team’s new model vastly improves predicting the health and environmental impact of policy decisions overseeing the transport industry. What exactly is different about your model