In order to address the need to be environmentally responsible and to know the rising generation’s take on the deteriorating state of the environment,  SIWA invited students from our sponsor’s international schools and Korean schools that SIWA supports in two divisions, Junior and Senior, to submit essays addressing this year’s theme, #EnvironmentalProtection.

Ki Hun (Simon) Choi from Seoul Foreign School submitted this winning essay in the Senior  Division.  500,000 KRW will be donated to his vetted charity of choice,  Ebenezer’s Home for people with disabilities.

 

Should people who own cars pay more taxes because cars pollute the environment?

Should people who own cars pay more taxes because cars pollute the environment? In the past few years, pollution around the world has worsened considerably due to industrial emissions, poor disposal of wastes, and deforestation, among other factors. Car pollution has been one of the biggest factors for the exacerbation of worldwide pollution. In order to decrease pollution, people should reduce car pollution. To achieve this goal, governments should tax car owners for the pollution their cars cause to the environment.

Although some scholars question the level of harm caused to the environment by air pollution, most scholars tend to agree that air pollution is a significant harm responsible for climate change. In her article “Effects of Car Pollutants on the Environment” for Sciencing, Jenny Green explains that carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, water vapor, and solid matter emit from the burning of fossil fuels.1 Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere, which causes worldwide temperatures to rise. By burning excessive amounts of fossil fuels, such as gasoline and diesel, global temperatures rise significantly.2 Warmer global temperatures consequently affect farming, wildlife, sea levels, and natural landscapes.3  Moreover, nitrous oxide contributes to the depletion of the ozone layer, which shields the Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun, and sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide mix with rainwater to create acid rain, which damages crops, forests, and other vegetation and buildings.4  Clearly, the burning of fossil fuels is detrimental to the environment.

The burning of fossil fuels from cars is an extreme environmental concern. Though the level of air pollution is not the same around the world or even within the same country, car pollution contributes largely to air pollution, especially the case in areas of dense populations like cities. For instance, megacities, cities with populations exceeding ten million, like Mumbai and Beijing are famous for air pollution.5 At least 96 percent of these megacities’ populations are
exposed to PM2.5, exceeding WHO Air Quality Guidelines levels.6 According to WHO, cars are responsible for around 30 percent of air pollution in European cities and up to 50 percent in OECD countries.7 In the United States, approximately one-fifth of all pollution comes from cars.8
However, cars pollute more than just the air. Oil and fuel spills from cars and trucks seep into the soil near highways. Discarded fuel and particulates from vehicle emissions contaminate lakes, rivers, and wetlands.9 For example, in California, rainfall washes more than 7 trillion pieces of microplastics into the San Francisco Bay each year. The microplastics are mainly derived from tire particles left behind on the streets, and the amount washed away is 300 times greater than what comes from microfibers washing off polyester clothes, microbeads from beauty products, and the many other plastics washing down our sinks and sewers.10
The end of a car’s life doesn’t mark the end of its environmental impact. When cars are thrown away, they may accumulate in a junkyard, and their many components may deteriorate. The heavy metals present in cars can contaminate groundwater and eventually affect the oceans, and acids from rotting car batteries can severely impact the chemistry of the soil, which is deleterious to plant growth in the area as well as human health.11 About three-quarters of today’s average car, including the bulk of its steel frame, is made up of recyclable material. However, cars are not often properly recycled, leaving a concern footprint on the environment.12
Fuel costs are also a factor. Petroleum products raise environmental red flags even before they are burned. Extracting fuels from the Earth is an energy-intensive process that damages local ecosystems. Companies apply the drilling method of “fracking” to extract oil and gas.
Fracking contaminates drinking water sources with chemicals that lead to cancer, birth defects, and liver damage by injecting a mixture of water and chemicals into rock formations. As a result, it generates huge volumes of wastewater with dangerous chemicals that can leak into ponds, lagoons, and underground aquifers. Moreover, loud noises, human movement, and vehicle traffic from drilling operations can disrupt wildlife animals’ breeding and nesting. The infrastructure built for energy development, such as powerlines, wellpads, and fences can get in the way of many species.13
People, too, are affected by the pollution caused by cars. Particulate matter, hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and other car pollutants harm human health. Diesel engines emit high levels of particulate matter. Airborne particles cause skin and eye irritation and allergies and can lodge deep into the lungs, where they cause respiratory problems.14 Breathing in toxins can lead to inflamed lungs, causing chest pains, coughing, and difficulty in breathing.

Carbon monoxide is particularly dangerous to infants and people suffering from heart disease because it interferes with the blood’s ability to transport oxygen. Pollution from cars clearly affects health.
Car pollutants are an alarming driving force in global warming and climate change. We must enact change. To alleviate this problem, car owners should be forced to pay more in taxes as an incentive to stop or decrease their car usage. In a 2014 article, Golam Kibria states that a possible solution for reducing car pollutants is implementing a “green tax.” 15 Also referred to as “environmental taxes,” “pollution taxes,” or “eco taxes,” green taxes are excise taxes on goods that produce pollutants.16 Advocates of green taxes believe that a tax will reduce environmental harm in the least costly manner by encouraging changes in the behavior of firms, organizations, communities, households, and individuals. 17 The IMF has proposed that the countries that emit the most greenhouse gases establish a tax on carbon dioxide emissions at a rate of $75 per ton in 2030.18 This type of tax seeks to shift from polluting forms of energy in favor of less polluting ones, such as renewables.19 Taxes on pollution provide clear incentives to polluters to reduce emissions and seek out cleaner and sustainable alternatives. As a consequence, people will seek out more affordable forms of traveling.
To further deter car owners from driving their cars, people must be encouraged to resort to public transportation as a means of traveling. Public transportation must be marketed as a more attractive option as a means of traveling. C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group suggests that improved physical planning can help promote public transportation. Physical planning refers to how close bus and metro routes, as well as walking and cycling infrastructure, are to one another so that they can intersect, conveniently allowing people to move from one mode of transportation to another when traveling.20 By making various modes of transportation interlinked, people can easily get to their destinations. Furthermore, by integrating fares, meaning that payment systems are integrated so that passengers only pay once for trips that include multiple public transit modes, the government can make public transportation more affordable to a greater extent.
This solution was implemented in Fortaleza, Brazil in 2018. Prior to the implementation, only two to four percent of the road network gave priority to buses, resulting in heavy traffic as buses had to share road space with other vehicles. By investing in 108 kilometers of dedicated bus lanes that allow buses to bypass congestion, bus terminals were improved and an integrated fare for the entire transit system was introduced. Alongside investment in the bus system, Fortaleza invested in 225 kilometers of bike lanes, integrated bike-share systems with public transport, reduced the speed limit, narrowed roads for cars, raised pedestrian crossings, and redesigned intersections in favor of cyclists and pedestrians. The initiative won the city the ITDP Sustainable Transport Award in 2019.21

Another way to encourage the use of public transportation would be to optimize bus/subway routes to minimize overlap and ensure coverage across the city in line with demand.
22 By making sure that buses/subways stop at every major destination efficiently, public transportation can save people time and money getting to and from a destination. Designing maps and/or apps that are easy to read and understand are necessary as doing so will encourage more people to make use of public transportation. When maps and apps are easy to follow, more people will have a better understanding of their city’s routes, making it more likely for them to travel by public transportation.
Transportation will always be necessary as people need to travel both short and long distances, whether it be during the weekdays for work or the weekends for leisure. It is also undeniable that cars are one of the most popular forms of transportation due to the comfort and privacy they provide compared to public transportation. Cars undoubtedly cause a great deal of pollution, and with the rapid increase of climate change, everyone around the world should work towards reducing any factors that may worsen the environment as well as human health. Through taxing car owners and encouraging public transportation, the world can mitigate car pollution and head towards a brighter future.

 


Notes:
1 Green, Jenny. “Effects of Car Pollutants on the Environment.” Sciencing, 2 Mar. 2019, sciencing.com/effects-car-pollutants-environment-23581.html.
2 Ibid.
3 Ibid.
4 Ibid.
5 Smith, Meghan E. “What Percentage of Air Pollution Is Due to Cars?” HowStuffWorks, HowStuffWorks, 7 Dec. 2010, auto.howstuffworks.com/percentage-of-air-pollution-due-to-cars.htm.
6 Krzyzanowski, Michal, et al. “Air Pollution in the Mega-Cities.” SpringerLink, Springer International Publishing, 17 June 2014, link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40572-014-0019-7.
7 “Air Pollution.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 30 Jan. 2020, www.who.int/sustainable-development/transport/health-risks/air-pollution/en/.
8 Ibid.
9 Ibid.
10 Xia, Rosanna. “The Biggest Likely Source of Microplastics in California Coastal Waters? Our Car Tires.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 2 Oct. 2019,
www.latimes.com/environment/story/2019-10-02/california-microplastics-ocean-study.
11 “Hidden Dangers Found in the Average You-Pull-It Junkyard.” My Auto Store, 28 May 2019, myautostore.com/hidden-dangers-you-pull-it-junkyards/.
12 Staff, National Geographic. “The Environmental Impacts of Cars, Explained.” The Environmental Impacts of Cars Explained, 4 Sept. 2019,
www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/green-guide/buying-guides/car/environmental-impact/. 13 “7 Ways Oil and Gas Drilling Is Bad for the Environment.” The Wilderness Society, 9 Aug. 2019, www.wilderness.org/articles/blog/7-ways-oil-and-gas-drilling-bad-environment.
14 Green, Jenny. “Effects of Car Pollutants on the Environment.” Sciencing, 2 Mar. 2019, sciencing.com/effects-car-pollutants-environment-23581.html.
15 Kibria, Golam. “Can a ‘Green Tax’ Be an Incentive to Reduce Pollution in Your Country?” ResearchGate, 6 June 2014, www.researchgate.net/post/Can_a_green_tax_be_an_incentive_to_reduce_pollution_in_your_country.
16 Ibid.
17 Ibid.
18 Iberdrola. “Environmental Taxes Make Way to Protect the Environment.” Iberdrola, Iberdrola, 9 Dec. 2019, www.iberdrola.com/environment/green-and-environmental-taxes.
19 Iberdrola. “Environmental Taxes Make Way to Protect the Environment.” Iberdrola, Iberdrola, 9 Dec. 2019, www.iberdrola.com/environment/green-and-environmental-taxes.
20 C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group. “How to Make Public Transport an Attractive Option in Your City.” C40 Knowledge Community, Mar. 2019,
www.c40knowledgehub.org/s/article/How-to-make-public-transport-an-attractive-option-in-your-city?language=en_ US.
21 C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group. “How to Make Public Transport an Attractive Option in Your City.” C40 Knowledge Community, Mar. 2019,
www.c40knowledgehub.org/s/article/How-to-make-public-transport-an-attractive-option-in-your-city?language=en_ US.
22 Ibid.