There are Now One Billion Cars Stuck in Traffic Around the World


Photo credit: Cory M. Grenier via Flickr/CC BY-SA

According to the most recent stats, there are now a record one billion cars on the world's roads. One billion cars doing long and short commutes, one billion cars spurring the growth of unsustainable suburbs, one billion cars stuck in traffic around the world. In other words, there's around one car for every person in China, or a car for every seven people worldwide. And that number is expected to more than double over the next 40 years. There are clearly a number of reasons to be concerned about this ...... Not the least of which is that automobile emissions are a major global contributor to climate change. But with demand for cars spiking like mad in China, and beginning to do the same in India and Brazil, such an explosion in the automotive industry looks rather inevitable.

Climate Progress's Stephen Lacey parses the news:

the global market for automobiles is accelerating faster than ever. According to an analysis from the auto trade journal Ward's, there are now over one billion cars, light-, medium- and heavy-duty trucks on roads around the world, up from 980 million at the end of 2009.

In just half a year, the global auto fleet expanded by around 35 million vehicles. That's the second-biggest increase ever. The U.S. is still has the biggest population of cars and trucks - one for every 1.3 people in the country. But the American fleet is not growing much, only about 1% a year. The explosion in automobile deployments is coming from China, where registrations grew by 27.5%, bringing the country's vehicle population to 78 million.

China now has more cars than Japan, for the first time ever. There are now 21 million cars in India, and Brazil added 2.5 million vehicles to its roads. The U.S.'s fleet, meanwhile, grew only by 1% (we already have almost as many cars as we do people here).

And while Lacey points out that many of these new cars will be fuel efficient, hybrids, and electrics, that's hardly much consolation for such a stratospheric growth projection: These cars are going to pollute a lot. Building them will pollute a lot. They'll further expand global oil demand and drive the production of dirtier kinds of oil, like tar sands. In short, the trajectory we've established, based on an automobile-dependent transportation paradigm, is going to prove to be a massive problem.

At least one sector is smiling wide, though: The auto industry, with over one billion served.

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