Decarbonizing Logistics; Women’s Leadership Conference; Digital Twins

CO2 Emissions from Freight Transportation in 5 Charts

By Kellen Betts in Manifold

Significant progress in curbing CO2 emissions was made over the last decade in electricity generation, residential, and other sectors of the economy while emissions from transportation continues to grow. [1] Moreover, emissions from freight transportation—versus passenger transportation—are projected to accelerate well past mid-century international climate goals. [2]

Without a widespread and concerted effort, transportation is set to overtake energy as the most carbon-intensive sector by 2040. [3]

To understand emissions attributable to the movement of freight, however, we have to dig deeper than sector- or industry-level statistics, which hide the complexity of freight transportation.

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What We're Reading

Book of the Week

Review by Kellen Betts

The movement of goods across vast distances is essential to life in the 21st century. The introduction of fossil-fuel-powered transportation in the 19th century led to a dramatic reduction in the cost of moving goods and people, and drove a global expansion of markets and production networks. By the dawn of the 21st century, it is estimated that as much as 90 percent of global demand cannot be met by local supply.

The acceleration of freight transportation comes with a cost, however, not captured by the market value of goods and services. It accounts for over twenty percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. It also significantly lags progress being made in other sectors of the economy, and is projected to be the most carbon-intensive sector by mid-century.

Alan McKinnon takes on this challenge in Decarbonizing Logistics (Kogan Page, 2018), providing a thorough survey of decarbonization strategies for this critical sector.

The book is balanced and readable. McKinnon begins with an overview of climate change and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions attributable to the movement of freight—raw materials, consumer products, and other physical goods. He also provides an overview of different methods to quantify emissions and thoroughly reviews the strategies to lower emissions from the trucks, planes, trains, and ships used to move freight.

As discussed in CO2 Emissions from Freight Transportation in 5 Charts, trucking contributes the vast majority (almost 80%) of CO2 emissions in the U.S., and is projected to double internationally by 2050. Internationally, the majority of freight moves across oceans—and to a lesser extent coastal and riverine waters—accounting for over 30% of international freight emissions in 2015.

In general, GHG emissions from freight transportation can be reduced by:

  1. Directly reducing emissions “out of the tailpipe” of the vehicles—trucks, planes, trains, and ships—used to move freight;

  2. Improving the efficiency of a specific mode of transportation—again trucks, planes, trains, and ships—by increasing the amount of freight moved for a given amount of GHG emissions;

  3. Shifting freight from less efficient modes—trucks and planes—to more efficient modes—trains and ships.

There has been a tendency on the part of both analysts and managers to see advances in vehicle technology and a switch to low-carbon energy as the main, or even sole, means of decarbonizing freight transport. This reflects a more general view that there is a ‘technological fix’ to the climate change problem… While new vehicle designs and low-carbon power sources will certainly make major contributions to future decarbonization in this sector, they alone are very unlikely to deliver the deep cuts in CO2 that will be needed over the next few decades. (p. 47)

Despite the importance of freight transportation in the global economy, and the impact the sector has on the environment, it is typically missing from the discussion where the focus is often on renewable energy, electric vehicles, consumer products, and other (equally important) topics. McKinnon fills this critical gap with Decarbonizing Logistics, an essential resource for anyone interested in supply chain and sustainability.

Community Events

Women’s Leadership Conference:
Leadership Toolkit

November 10 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm | Virtual | $15-20 | Bellevue Chamber

This final session of the Women’s Leadership Conference features a talk by Racquel Russell, Vice President at Zillow Group, on her path to her current Leadership role, and a workshop by Elaina Herber, President of Ascend Hospitality Group, to build your unstoppable toolkit.

More information and registration

Digital Twins: Challenges and Opportunities with Prith Banerjee, CTO at ANSYS

December 9 @ 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm | Virtual | Free | IoT Hub Meetup

A “digital twin” is a technology that pairs a physical asset with a virtual asset (a simulation model of the asset) using a platform that allows two-way information flow between them.

Most companies use data-based analytics and machine learning to build digital twins. This requires a lot of training data, and accuracy of the model is constrained by the observed data. Some companies use physics-based simulation—with tools like those provided by ANSYS—to build digital twins, and while this approach is not constrained by the availability of data, the models require long computation times to deploy. More recently, companies are using hybrid approaches combining data-based analytics and physics-based approaches to build digital twins that are accurate and require less training data.

In this talk Prith Banerjee, CTO at ANSYS Inc., will discuss the challenges, opportunities, and latest research of digital twins, with applications to a number of industries.

More information and registration

By the Numbers

44,000 tons

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office estimates they prevented approximately 44,000 tons of CO2 emissions by allowing several thousand of their employees to work from home in 2015. [4]


[1] US EPA (2020). Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2018. Report # 430-R-20-002.

[2] ITF (2019), ITF Transport Outlook 2019, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[3] Greene, Suzanne, and Cristiano Façanha (2019). Carbon Offsets for Freight Transport Decarbonization. Nature Sustainability: 2 (11), 994–96.

[4] Prithwiraj Choudhury (2020). Our Work-from-Anywhere Future. Harvard Business Review, November–December 2020.

About Us

Kellen Betts is Editor of Supply Chain Weekly. He also writes the newsletter Manifold, exploring the intersection of supply chain, sustainability, and technology. Contact him at Follow him on LinkedIn and @KellenBetts.