Driving Up the Heat: SUVs and Global Warming
Worsening the Threat of Global Warming
Because the government classifies SUVs as "light trucks" rather than cars, SUVs have a license to guzzle more gas and pollute more than cars. In 1975, when fuel-economy standards were first adopted, "light truck" referred to a vehicle used to haul hay on the farm or gravel at a construction site. At that time, light trucks comprised only 20 percent of the vehicle market. Today, SUVs, mini-vans and other light trucks make up nearly half of new vehicles sold. They are far more likely to haul lattés home from Starbucks than lumber from the yard. Even though Detroit has technology that could make them both cleaner and safer, SUVs and other light trucks are still held to low environmental standards, roll over more than cars and pose greater danger to other vehicles than cars do.
The world's leading climate scientists have warned that there is now 30 percent more carbon dioxide—the primary global-warming gas—in the atmosphere than a century ago. The burning of fossil fuels is the primary source of this CO2 pollution. Over the same period of time, the average surface temperature of the earth has risen more than 1 degree Fahrenheit.
Due to these changes, we are already seeing signs of global warming. The 1990s was the hottest decade on record and the 11 hottest years on record have all occurred in the past 13 years.
Extreme drought conditions and changing rainfall patterns have occurred across the country, setting the stage for wildfires, which decimated areas from Florida to California. Record heat waves have killed hundreds in Chicago and infectious-disease outbreaks linked to global warming have sickened or killed hundreds from Texas to New York, shut down Disney World and re-introduced Americans to dengue fever, malaria and encephalitis. Sea levels have risen between four and 10 inches and glacial ice is rapidly retreating on five continents.
The world's leading scientists warn that over the 21st century, CO2 levels are expected to double, raising sea levels two feet or more, worsening smog and leaving our children to cope with a more hostile climate.
America's cars and light trucks alone produce nearly 20 percent of U.S. CO2 pollution. That's more than all but four countries worldwide! And transportation is the fastest-growing sector of global-warming pollution in the nation. Popular light trucks pump out 237 million tons of global-warming pollution into our atmosphere each year. That's because every gallon of gas burned emits 28 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere.
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