In March 1997 a workshop was held in Washington D.C. that convened a wide variety of experts from Canada, Mexico, and the United States to examine the relationship between the North American transportation sector and atmospheric change. The workshop was sponsored by three divisions of the U.S. National Research Council (NRC) — the Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate, the Transportation Research Board, and the Board on Energy and Environmental Services, and by the Academia Mexicana de Ciencias, the Canadian Climate Program Board, the Global Change Program of The Royal Society of Canada, and the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, a body established under the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation.
The three-day workshop brought together scientists, economists, engineers, policy analysts and others from the many diverse communities that share an interest in this issue, including academia, industry, non-governmental organizations and the governments of the three nations. The workshop was organized as a series of panel discussions which addressed, in broad scope, the following questions:
What is the importance of the North American transportation sector to the growth and integration of the three countries' economies?
How will technological, economic, demographic, and lifestyle changes drive the evolution of the North American transportation sector in the coming decades?
How has the North American transportation sector contributed to atmospheric changes on the local, regional, and global levels?
What are the impacts of these atmospheric changes on climate, ecosystems, and human health?
What are the most effective policies and programs that can be undertaken to help the transportation sector develop in a more sustainable manner, either through technological change, or through changing individuals ' use decisions?
The objectives of the workshop were to identify areas of agreement and issues of contention among the participants, to outline research activities that would be necessary to resolve the identified controversies, and to explore opportunities for the three countries to work together in research and mitigation activities. This program was not intended to provide a complete, detailed review of all the important transportation and atmospheric change issues, many of which constitute entire fields of study in and of themselves. Rather, the aim was to provide a broad overview of these issues and to help establish the groundwork for a truly comprehensive, integrated assessment.
Although significant efforts were made to include a wide diversity of viewpoints and to equally represent all three countries at the workshop, not all points of view were ultimately covered. A large fraction of the information that is available, and which was presented, focuses on the United States. It should also be noted that most of the workshop discussion focused on road transport, because this accounts for over 80 percent of all transportation energy consumption in North America.
The workshop was organized by an NRC steering committee, supporting NRC staff, and several additional representatives from Canada and Mexico. This summary report, which is based largely on the notes compiled by the rapporteurs at each workshop session, provides a brief overview of the presentations and discussions that took place at the workshop, not a verbatim account of what was said by each speaker. No attempt was made to reach a consensus on recommendations or conclusions, either among the workshop participants or among the steering committee.
Publication of this report was financed by the Transportation Systems Branch of Environment Canada.