The text of this paper, Batra and Belladi (2012), claims:

transportation is highly pollution intensive, specially relative to production

They provide some more context:

With international commerce, goods are transported over long distances over the seas, land routes and the skies, and in the process a large volume of gases is emitted into the atmosphere. Once goods arrive at ports, they are further transported to other areas within a country. Local production is usually spread all over the country and does not need as much freight, with trade, which inevitably requires transportation, expanding almost twice as fast as world gross domestic product (GDP) since 1950 (US Council of Economic Advisers, 1991, 1992), international trade damages the global environment much faster than economic growth. There is a double-barreled effect here. First, trade has outpaced world GDP, and second, trade-induced transportation is pollution intensive relative to production. [footnote:] Transport costs have fallen steadily over the years to induce a big rise in world trade. However, minimal transport costs does not mean that emissions from transportation are minimal. In fact, falling transport costs have magnified the polluting effects of transportation.

Is it true that in general, relative to production, transportation is highly polluting?

  • 2
    What exactly are you looking for -- greenhouse gas emissions or overall pollution, and if the latter, how would you weigh e.g. NOx vs. PCB vs. PM2.5 vs. dioxins...?!? (Hinting at: Claim being a blanket statement, too broad to handle in this format.) As for raw data, the air pollutant emissions data viewer would be one starting point.
    – DevSolar
    Sep 23, 2019 at 14:21
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    Also, you cannot really uncouple production from transportation -- many of the raw materials for said production are traded internationally first, so how much of that transportation pollution has to be factored into production...?
    – DevSolar
    Sep 23, 2019 at 14:24
  • @DevSolar: that sounds more like an answer than mere comment. And I am looking for validation of the general claim... Although it is utterly general (as you observe), it is an essential assumption for their paper/model. It's also "argued" in the paper with some details (see extended quote), so it's not just something like "let's assume for the sake of convenience that". Sep 23, 2019 at 14:28
  • The papers referenced in the paper in the OP are discussing greenhouse gases, not other pollutants. Maybe that is their focus? Sep 23, 2019 at 16:33
  • @called2voyage: if it's true in that context, say just for CO2, it would still shed some light. Sep 23, 2019 at 16:42


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