Although the transport sector is responsible for a large and growing share of global emissions affecting climate, its overall contribution has not been quantified. We provide a comprehensive analysis of radiative forcing from the road transport, shipping, aviation, and rail subsectors, using both past- and forward-looking perspectives. We find that, since preindustrial times, transport has contributed approximately 15% and 31% of the total man-made CO2 and O3 forcing, respectively. A forward-looking perspective shows that the current emissions from transport are responsible for approximately 16% of the integrated net forcing over 100 years from all current man-made emissions. The dominating contributor to positive forcing (warming) is CO2, followed by tropospheric O3. By subsector, road transport is the largest contributor to warming. The transport sector also exerts cooling through reduced methane lifetime and atmospheric aerosol effects. Shipping causes net cooling, except on future time scales of several centuries. Much of the forcing from transport comes from emissions not covered by the Kyoto Protocol.
Transport affects climate directly and indirectly through mechanisms that cause both warming and cooling of climate, and the effects operate on very different timescales. We calculate climate responses in terms of global mean temperature and find large differences between the transport sectors with respect to the size and mix of short- and long-lived effects, and even the sign of the temperature response. For year 2000 emissions, road transport has the largest effect on global mean temperature. After 20 and 100 years the response in net temperature is 7 and 6 times higher, respectively, than for aviation. Aviation and shipping have strong but quite uncertain short-lived warming and cooling effects, respectively, that dominate during the first decades after the emissions. For shipping the net cooling during the first 4 decades is due to emissions of SO(2) and NOx. On a longer timescale, the current emissions from shipping cause net warming due to the persistence of the CO(2) perturbation. If emissions stay constant at 2000 levels, the warming effect from road transport will continue to increase and will be almost 4 times larger than that of aviation by the end of the century.