Opinion: We can’t tackle climate change if we ignore the main polluter — transportation

The 116th Congress has begun, and for the first time in years, climate change is on the national agenda. The House of Representatives has established a select committee on “the climate crisis.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) wrote in the Washington Post that his caucus wouldn’t sign on to an infrastructure deal unless it addressed climate change. Progressives are coalescing around a “Green New Deal,” which calls on the federal government to decarbonize the economy while creating green-infrastructure jobs.

Missing from these efforts, however, is a whole-hearted stab at cleaning up transportation, the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. To do that requires efforts to reduce driving, which would mean reversing the current course of federal policy.

For the past half-century, the story of U.S. transportation has been almost unceasing growth in driving. Post-war transportation engineering valued moving private vehicles faster and further. Across the country, governments built and widened highways to enable flight from cities, and also widened roads within cities themselves.