In association with University of Aberdeen UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

Climate Change, Energy and Transport

Transport is a major consumer of energy and producer of greenhouse gases and its contribution to both has substantially increased in both relative and absolute terms since 1990. Urgent action to decarbonise transport is therefore needed. Much research on climate change mitigation in transport has been conducted but this work has largely been based on concepts and approaches originally developed in economics, engineering and psychology. Given the central role of transport in contemporary societies, it would seem that the social sciences also have important contributions to make to thinking about climate change mitigation and energy use reduction in transport.

This one-year project, which ran from May 2010 to April 2011, has had the following objectives:

  1. To analyze and synthesize insights about interventions aimed at reducing energy use and emissions in local and global transport;
  2. To identify major knowledge gaps and to propose new ways to advance the energy consumption and emissions agenda in transport research; and
  3. To outline the potential contributions social scientists can make to the study of climate change, energy and transport and to explore ways in which social science concepts and approaches can be integrated into mainstream transport thinking.

These objectives have been achieved through a short review of the literature in the areas of climate change, energy and transport, which focused on the interactions between them, and on the contributions of non-transport specialists and social scientists. Major knowledge gaps have been identified through a short questionnaire distributed at two major conferences (one transport and the other non transport), a series of in depth interviews with 20 key academics, and a further review of potentially interesting methodologies used in the social sciences, but not in transport.

A one-day seminar with academics has been held in Oxford in March 2011 at which the potential contributions of sociotechnical transitions thinking, practice theories and behavioural economics to thinking about climate change mitigation in transport have been explored. Key findings have been discussed with senior policymakers from various UK departments at a half-day workshop at the Department for Transport in June 2011.


Journal articles
Special issue:
Briefing notes:

Further Information

For more information on this research project please contact Dr Tim Schwanen.