Transport demand is closely linked to economic activity: in periods of growth, economic output goes up, more goods are transported and more people travel. The impacts of transport on human health, the environment and climate change are closely linked to the choice of fuel. Clean alternative fuels, including electricity, are already available and can constitute viable options to petrol and diesel. Trip length plays a role in determining the suitability of the fuel type.
A wide range of transport options exists, but choosing the one with lowest emissions is not always straightforward. One way to measure your environmental impact is to look at the CO2 emissions per passenger kilometre travelled.
Fossil fuel powered road transport represents the most significant source of transport related air pollution. Each vehicle releases pollutants from a number of sources.
Many Europeans are exposed to harmful levels of air pollution. Up to 30 % of Europeans living in cities are exposed to air pollutant levels exceeding EU air quality standards. And around 98 % of Europeans living in cities are exposed to levels of air pollutants deemed damaging to health by the World Health Organization’s more stringent guidelines.
Noise pollution is a growing environmental concern, arising from a number of sources. The adverse effects of noise pollution can be found in the well- being of exposed human populations, in the health and distribution of wildlife, as well as in the abilities of children to learn at school.
Several EU targets have been set to reduce the environmental impacts of transport in Europe, including its greenhouse gas. The transport sector’s targets are part of the EU’s overall goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 – 95 % by 2050.
Pollution events are more likely to occur under temperature inversion conditions. During extended periods of high pressure in winter months, solar radiation reaches the ground, warming it up. At night, the lack of cloud cover means the ground loses heat rapidly and the air in contact with the ground becomes colder. The warmer air rises and acts as a lid trapping the colder air close to the ground. Pollution, including that from road traffic is also trapped, so the air layer closest to the ground becomes more and more polluted. This continues until the prevailing meteorological conditions change.
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe's environment.
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