Transport and the Environment

Potter, Stephen and Bailey, Iain (2008). Transport and the Environment. In: Knowles, Richard; Shaw, Jon and Docherty, Iain eds. Transport Geographies. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing, pp. 29–48.



Transport offers many economic and social benefits but also brings a wide range of direct and indirect environmental impacts. Large amounts of finite resources in the form of fuels and materials are needed for the construction of vehicles and transport infrastructure. Transport activities account for over 30% of all energy use by final consumers and is widely predicted to be the largest contributor to the growth of carbon dioxide emissions in the twenty-first century. Road transport is also a major source of other noxious emissions, notably carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and particulates as well as a number of other detrimental environmental effects, such as those related to the severance of communities and ecosystems and noise.

This chapter reviews the nature of the environmental problems created by transport activities, their relationship with the discipline of transport geography, and some of the approaches developed to address transport’s environmental consequences. It first defines the meaning of environmental issues pertaining to transport and explains why environmental issues are of growing interest to transport geographers. The main social and natural environmental impacts of transport are then explored, together with various approaches used to ameliorate these impacts. Finally, the challenges involved in achieving more sustainable transport systems are discussed.

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