One Thing You Can Do: Drive Smarter

By Anonymous

Climate Fwd:

Also this week, climate report cards for Democratic candidates.

Welcome to the Climate Fwd: newsletter. The New York Times climate team emails readers once a week with stories and insights about climate change. Sign up here to get it in your inbox.

ImageOne Thing You Can Do: Drive Smarter
CreditTyler Varsell

Transportation creates more greenhouse emissions than any other sector of the United States economy. That’s in part because the number of cars on the roads keeps increasing.

But experts say that if all American drivers were to follow a few simple rules, those emissions would come down sharply.

“Good driving behavior can help increase the efficiency of your vehicle by between 20 and 30 percent,” said Dave Cooke, senior vehicles analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “That’s a big range, and it really puts a lot of the onus on reducing fuel emissions on the driver.”

To cool down on hot days, consider lowering your windows. That probably has a lower carbon footprint than using the air-conditioner when driving at low speeds. The picture is less clear at higher speeds because of drag, especially if you drive a modern car with efficient AC.

If you follow these tips, you won’t need to fill up as often. But when that time comes, bear in mind that not all engines are created equal and the one in your car is optimized for a particular type of fuel. You should use it. If the manufacturer recommends regular gasoline, for example, using mid-grade or premium would be less efficient.

Finally, consider walking, biking or taking the bus when feasible. That won’t always be an option. But, sometimes, it might be. Roughly 20 percent of all vehicle trips in the United States are under a mile.

“When you get into the car, the first question that you need to ask yourself is: Do I really need to drive there,” Mr. Cooke said. “If everyone was to cut just 10 percent of the car trips they take, that would lead to a pretty significant reduction in emissions.”

Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth WarrenCreditPhotos by Christopher Lee, Bryan Anselm, Lauren Justice and Andrea Morales for The New York Times; Shutterstock

But who is the “best” on climate change? That’s subjective, of course, but a few scorecards have emerged to help primary voters who care about the issue weigh their choices.

The environmental group 350 Action has the 2020 Climate Test, which takes into consideration where candidates stand on fossil fuel development, accepting money from energy companies, and the Green New Deal. The League of Conservation Voters evaluates candidates on whether they adhere to seven policy positions, like 100 percent clean energy by 2050.

Also, Climate Advisers, a private consulting group, has come up with a ranking system based on weighted scoring in four areas: a candidate’s past climate and environment policies; his or her current proposals; the extent to which the candidate uses social media to raise the issue of climate change; and willingness to refuse fossil fuel campaign money.

Those categories are then each broken down to weigh things like whether the candidate has clearly articulated that climate change would form a central part of his or her presidency, or made a compelling case for a carbon-neutral future.

Topping the list is Governor Jay Inslee of Washington, who has made climate change his central campaign issue. At the bottom: John Hickenlooper, a former governor of Colorado, and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden.

Nigel Purvis, the chief executive of Climate Advisers, attributed Mr. Biden’s low ranking to the fact that he has not issued a climate policy and rarely uses public engagements or his substantial Twitter following to highlight the issue, but he said the system was designed to be updated as candidates’ policies evolve. Mr. Biden has said he’ll make his climate plan public soon.

Lisa Friedman reports on climate and environmental policy in Washington. A former editor at Climatewire, she has covered nine international climate talks. @LFFriedman

A version of this article appears in print on

, on Page



of the New York edition

with the headline:

Here to Help; One Thing You Can Do to Counteract Climate Change: Drive Greener

. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe