A study conducted in eight countries has found that commuters, car owners, and the jet-set hit their global peak way back in 2003. The study entitled Are We Reaching Peak Travel? Trends in Passenger Transport in Eight Industrialized Countries was written byAdam Millard-Balla and Lee Schipperbc. The analysis found that demand for travel and automobile ownership reached a saturation point more than seven years ago, despite predictions (by the International Energy Agency) of 1.5% annual growth through to 2030. Here is an abstract of the study:
ABSTRACT: Projections of energy use and greenhouse gas emissions for industrialized countries typically show continued growth in vehicle ownership, vehicle use and overall travel demand. This growth represents a continuation of trends from the 1970s through the early 2000s. This paper presents a descriptive analysis of cross-national passenger transport trends in eight industrialized countries, providing evidence to suggest that these trends may have halted. Through decomposing passenger transport energy use into activity, modal structure and modal energy intensity, we show that increases in total activity (passenger travel) have been the driving force behind increased energy use, offset somewhat by declining energy intensity. We show that total activity growth has halted relative to GDP in recent years in the eight countries examined. If these trends continue, it is possible that an accelerated decline in the energy intensity of car travel; stagnation in total travel per capita; some shifts back to rail and bus modes; and at least somewhat less carbon per unit of energy could leave the absolute levels of emissions in 2020 or 2030 lower than today.
AFFILIATIONS: 1) Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources (E-IPER), Stanford University; Stanford, CA, USA. 2) Precourt Energy Efficiency Center, Stanford University; Stanford, CA, USA. 3) Precourt Energy Efficiency Center, Stanford University; Stanford, CA, USA. 4) Global Metropolitan Studies, U.C.; Berkeley, CA, USA.
Clearly this has huge ramifications on what we thought we knew about the future not just of world energy consumption and climate change, but also the extrapolations we’ve been making about where our society itself will be in x amount of years. Sure, we won’t all be hopping on a bikes to get to work tomorrow, but it’s definitely an encouraging discovery. You can download the study in full or view it online here.