Assessment of the Potential for a Climate Change "Truth in Advertising" Initiative for the Transportation Sector

Focus Area

Climate Change


Air Quality, Environmental Process







Research Idea Scope

Currently, transportation goods and services are marketed, promoted, and sold with very little information related to their carbon footprint or other possible impacts to the climate. For example, the lifecycle footprint of a new car, bus, or train includes the embodied energy involved in making the vehicle, its shipping, all the fuel and maintenance materials used during its life, and its impact when disposed at end of life. A similar calculation can be made for a single trip made on any mode. The potential exists to standardize how these calculations are made, incorporate the information into how the goods are services are labeled or otherwise marketed, and make the information available to the consumer at the time of purchase. This would result in a more informed public regarding how their purchases could impact climatic changes.
Assess the feasibility and benefit of a climate change “truth in advertising” policy for transportation goods and services, similar to those used for food nutritional information, prescription drugs, or other consumer goods. Ensuring customer awareness of facts regarding climate change impact of goods and services would be mandatory for the purveyor of those goods and services. Calculations would be made with valid, science-based, peer-reviewed data. This research would assess the potential for such an initiative and identify opportunities, barriers, and other issues associated with its implementation.
Related Work
(None identified)
Urgency/PriorityGiven current concern about the transportation sector’s influence on climate change as well as the current efforts to reduce US dependence on fossil fuels and promote more efficient transportation, this research project would be timely. It would help determine whether the consumer “mindset” regarding transportation choices and behavior, and the resulting impact on the climate, would change given appropriate information about those impacts.

Urgency and Payoff

The findings of the proposed research could facilitate the implementation of an initiative to increase public awareness regarding the impact to climate change of transportation-related goods and services.
EffectivenessSocietal impacts of this research include, at a minimum, greater public understanding of how transportation goods and services impact climate. At best, this assessment could influence development of more sustainable transportation alternatives.

Suggested By

RNS. Sponsoring Committee: A0020T, Special Task Force on Climate Change and Energy Source Info: Special Task Force on Climate Change and Energy January 2010 Workshop