Climate change is a global problem, but a big part of the solution
lies in the hands of individuals – including the millions
of people who drive vehicles. If you have ever left your
car’s engine running while waiting to pick someone up, if you
have ever been stuck in a traffic jam or if you have ever sat with
your car idling while waiting in line at a drive-through teller or
restaurant, then you are part of the problem.
Idling for five minutes a day in a small car will burn 38 liters
of gas a year and release 88 kilograms of carbon dioxide (twice
as much in a large car.) For every thousand small and large cars
that idle for five minutes a day, that’s 132 tonnes!
A recent study suggests that in the peak of winter, Canadians
voluntarily idle their vehicles for a combined total of more than
75 million minutes a day – equivalent to one vehicle idling for
According to Natural Resources Canada, for every liter of
gasoline used, the average car produces about 2.4 kilos of carbon
dioxide. If every driver of a light duty vehicle avoided
idling by five minutes a day, collectively over the year, we
would save 680 million liters of fuel and over 1.6 million tonnes
of greenhouse gas emissions.
Idling is Bad for our Health
Research has demonstrated a direct link between contaminants
in vehicle emissions and respiratory problems. Smog –
caused in part by vehicle exhaust – results in increased hospital
admissions, respiratory illnesses and premature deaths, particularly
in urban areas. Health Canada estimates that more than
5,000 Canadians die prematurely each year because of air pollution,
and thousands more become unnecessarily ill. The World
Health Organization reports three million people now die each
year from the effects of air pollution. This is three times more
than those who die each year in auto accidents. Children are particularly
vulnerable to air pollution because they breathe faster
than adults and inhale more air relative to their body weight (approximately
50 percent more per pound than adults, according
to an EPA information sheet on school bus idling.)
For that reason, school buses and parents waiting outside
schools create a major idling problem. Air pollution also causes
unnecessary difficulty for elderly people and those with respiratory
problems, such as asthma, emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
These health problems could become even more common
and pronounced as climate change progresses. That’s because
climate change results in more frequent and severe heat waves,
which tend to make smog and air pollution worse.
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