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World Car-Free Day is next Thursday, here's why it's important

Thursday, Sept. 23, campaigners are asking you to consider a different way of getting to work.
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Next Thursday, Sept. 23, campaigners are asking you to consider a different way of getting to work.

If you're among the many Minnesotans who drive to work on their own, the organizers behind the Twin Cities effort for World Car-Free Day want you to take the bus or light rail, or think about walking, jogging or biking to work.

Transit coverage is good across the city, but not blanket, so in the event you can't take public transport to work, at the very least Move Minneapolis wants workers to carpool or use a car-sharing service for their commute.

If you're planning on taking part, then you can sign up to this pledge on the Move Minneapolis website, which will see you entered into a competition with a grand prize of a Bianchi Cortina bike, with runner-up prizes including stays at Aloft Minneapolis, dinner at Fogo De Chao and an evening at Orchestra Hall.

World Car-Free Day has been running every year since 2000 having started informally in the 1990s, and is intended to "take the heat off the planet for just one day by encouraging people to be less dependent on their cars," according to DaysOfTheYear.com.

Why do we need to take the heat off?

There are lifestyle benefits of taking more cars off the road. Streets become less clogged and noise is reduced, but the main benefit of reducing driving is to the environment.

Recently, the U.S. and China – the world's two biggest polluters – ratified the Paris Climate Treaty, which when enacted will mean countries must make efforts to limit the rise in global temperatures to 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels (and strive for 1.5 degrees), Reuters reports.

They will achieve this by limiting emissions of greenhouse gases, which are contributing to climate change by trapping heat inside the earth's atmosphere, and among those greenhouse gases is carbon dioxide (CO2).

The increase of CO2 is what NASA says is mostly responsible for the "forcing" of climate change since the industrial revolution.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, cars and trucks account for almost a fifth of all U.S. emissions, emitting around 24 pounds of CO2 and other greenhouse gases for every gallon of gas.

When other modes of transport, including planes, trains ships are taking into account, transportation accounts for 26 percent of U.S. emissions, the second-largest source of emissions behind power generation (which accounts for 30 percent), according to the EPA.

What happens if global temperatures are not reined in?

According to GreenFacts, if things stay the way they are currently, then it's conceivable global temperatures will rise by 4 degrees above pre-industrial levels (it's currently 0.8 above) between 2060 and 2100.

If that happens, scientists predict coastal cities will be flooded due to rising sea levels; there will be a reduction in the food supply as regions become either drier or wetter; water will become scarcer "in many regions"; there will be unprecedented heatwaves; the loss of biodiversity; and an increase in extreme weather.

Climate Central, as reported by CNN, says a 4 degree rise in temperature could result in 760 million homes around the world being submerged.

In the Midwest, NASA reports we'll see more "extreme heat, heavy downpours and flooding," that will affect infrastructure, health, agriculture, forestry, air and water quality, as well as "exacerbate a range of risks to the Great Lakes."

Efforts to reduce carbon emissions from major countries – Brazil being the latest to ratify the Paris Treaty – comes as the world has been experiencing record heat in 2016.

NASA confirmed on Monday that August was the joint hottest month on record – the other being July a month earlier, the Guardian reports.

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