Scientific Research about Climate Change Mitigation in Transport: A critical review

Tim Schwanen, David Banister, Jillian Anable

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

231 Citations (Scopus)
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This paper seeks to develop a deeper understanding of the research on climate change mitigation in transport. We suggest that work to date has focused on the effects of improvements in transport technologies, changes in the price of transport, physical infrastructure provision, behavioural change and alternative institutional arrangements for governing transport systems. In terms of research methodologies, positivist and quantitative analysis prevails, although there are signs of experimentation with non-positivist epistemologies and participatory methods. These particular engagements with climate change mitigation reflect mutually reinforcing tendencies within and beyond the academic transport community. We first draw on a revised version of Thomas Kuhn’s philosophy of science to explore the path dependencies within transport studies, which are at least partly responsible for the predisposition towards quantitative modelling and technology, pricing and infrastructure oriented interventions in transport systems. We then employ the governmentality perspective to examine how transport academics’ engagements with climate change mitigation depend on and align with more general understandings of climate change in UK society and beyond. The analysis makes clear that ecological modernisation and neo-liberal governmentality more generally provide the context for the current focus on and belief in technological, behaviour change, and especially market-based mitigation strategies. While current research trajectories are important and insightful, we believe that a deeper engagement with theoretical insights from the social sciences will produce richer understandings of transport mitigation in transport and briefly outline some of the contributions thinking on socio-technical transitions and practice theories can make.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)993-1006
Number of pages15
JournalTransportation Research. Part A, Policy and Practice
Issue number10
Early online date4 Oct 2011
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011


  • Transport
  • Climate Change
  • governmentality
  • behaviour change
  • carbon economy


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