Effect of national-level spatial distribution of cities on national transport CO2 emissions

Jaebin Lim, Myounggu Kang, Changmu Jung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Most research regarding the relationship between cities and transportation carbon emission is focused on intra-city travel, and it has been found that compact patterns tend to emit less carbon. Yet, little is known about the impact of national-level spatial distribution of cities and inter-city transportation on transportation CO2 emissions. Further, most studies regarding the impact of urbanization on CO2 emission directly examine the relationship between urbanization rate and CO2 emission with little consideration of the national spatial pattern of urbanization. This study hypothesizes that the national-level spatial distribution of cities – in a dispersed or polarized pattern – affects national transport CO2 emissions due to the varying intensity of inter-city transportation. This study uses the Gridded Population of the World v3 and v4 from Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) of NASA to examine the national-level spatial distribution of urban agglomerations. It applies the Stochastic Impacts by Regression on Population, Affluence, and Technology (STIRPAT) model. The analysis shows that, among 60–90% of urbanized countries, spatially dispersed urbanized countries (e.g., countries with many medium-sized cities scattered over the territory) show a lower national transportation CO2 emission than spatially polarized urbanized countries (e.g., there are only a few large cities). The urban system elasticity of transportation CO2 emissions is 0.4 or 0.6. That is, if the degree of polarization decreases by 1%, national transportation CO2 emissions decrease by approximately 0.4–0.6%. This effect is similar to the effect of GDP per capita of around 0.5%. Because it is particularly difficult to disperse people and economic activities across a country once spatial polarization is set, this study's findings have the most significant implications for urbanizing countries. If urbanizing countries adopt national urban policy and territorial plans to form dispersed cities, it could reduce transportation carbon emissions and promote sustainable development. For already urbanized countries, national urban policy development is recommended to promote spatially dispersed rather than polarized national urban systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)162-173
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Impact Assessment Review
StatePublished - Jul 2019


  • Big data
  • National transportation CO emission
  • National urban policy
  • National urban system
  • Spatial distribution of cities
  • Sustainable development
  • Territorial planning
  • Urban analytics


Dive into the research topics of 'Effect of national-level spatial distribution of cities on national transport CO2 emissions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this