Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A moral dilemma: 4x4s - climate change culprit or saviour?

Yesterday a month’s rainfall fell in 24 hours. Yorkshire was one of the most badly hit areas, with places such as Sheffield and Leeds experiencing the worst of the consequent flooding. Weather forecasters say it was the wettest day ever, and it’s been the wettest June since records began.

Every month we seem to break a new weather record. Usually it’s the warmest month or the hottest year, but increased rainfall is also a characteristic of climate change, as increased energy in the weather system produces more extreme results.

With the prospect of having to drive home through three feet of water, would you want a G-Wiz or a Land Rover? Yes, you know the answer. So people can’t be blamed for wanting the added security and capability of a 4x4 when faced with increasingly erratic weather conditions. And remember that it’s mid-summer now. What’s going to happen when October and November arrive?

Our photo shows a Ford Ka that has died in the middle of the road after failing to negotiate a flooded part of its route out of a children’s nursery, and being rescued by a Land Rover; while a BMW X5 with its extra ground clearance and four wheel drive easily negotiates its way through the floodwaters.

4x4s are generally seen as the culprits that cause climate change. However what do the Police drive when they have to rescue people from rising waters – yes, probably a Land Rover. As I write this a police officer is on TV, having rescued a man from the floods - and he’s standing next to his trusty Range Rover.

So perhaps it’s time to accept that people who want to get themselves and their families home from work or school safely may want a vehicle that they believe is capable for the job.

This results in a real dilemma. Climate change is upon us. 4x4s are the culprits. But we also need 4x4s to survive in our rapidly changing climate. What do we do?

The answer is that all types of vehicles need to be more green – and quickly. If there’s the will, it can be done. The Mini Cooper was held up in Honda’s advertising for its recently launched CR-V as a car with higher emissions than the new Japanese 4x4. Now the Mini Cooper D is shortly to become the UK’s most economical car; after a swift dose of BMW’s ‘EfficientDynamics’ treatment, it’s now vying for joint honours with the 72.4mpg VW Polo BlueMotion.

It wasn’t too long ago that the Land Rover production line was closed down by Greenpeace activists. Now, Land Rover is implementing a carbon offset programme for all new vehicles sold, and working hard to bring more energy-efficient hybrids to market as soon as possible, as well as introducing more weight-saving materials in its vehicles.

So the moral of our rant? Here at Green-Car-Guide we want ALL cars to be green. We’re all different, and a G-Wiz, as highly commendable as its green credentials potentially are, is just not a practical proposition for everyone. We have more choice everywhere we turn, from digital TV to the internet to the food in our shops. And we all want progress – so rather than a ‘hate 4x4s campaign’, why not a ‘love all green cars campaign’, to encourage manufacturers to give us greener city cars AND greener all-weather go-anywhere cars, along with greener everything in between – including taxis, buses, vans, trucks and tractors – oh and of course those other essentials for the emergency services in times of climate change – helicopters and boats.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Green Cars, the Green Agenda, and Jeremy Clarkson

During the last week I’ve been to various environmental events, ranging from conferences on biodiversity to sustainability forums. (This is what I do). At every single event the same message has been recurring – just when you thought green issues couldn’t rise up the political agenda any further – they rise up the political agenda further.

Climate change is obviously a main driver. Is Jeremy Clarkson the last person on the planet who refuses to acknowledge climate change is happening? (albeit presumably for entertainment value). Even George Bush is having to slowly concede on this one. At every environmental-related event I’ve been to this year there has been more and more evidence, not of climate change happening – that’s old news - but of climate change happening at a much faster rate than we all thought. If you’ve not seen Al Gore’s movie ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ then you need to. When you come out of that film you’ll be in no doubt that our glaciers are retreating and many of our delicately balanced ecosystems are facing a degree of destruction that can never be reversed.

So with our government describing climate change as the most serious threat to our planet, people shouldn’t be surprised that yet more and more legislation will be appearing to, at the best encourage us, but more realistically to force us, to drive cars that emit less CO2.

The Stern Report is increasingly being seen as a turning point. Up until that time, only specialist academic and environmental institutions were publishing work about the environment and the economy. With Stern’s findings, the government has at last become aware that climate change is going to mess up our economy, and it seems that is the most important wake-up call that the government could experience. Now it must be serious, and watch out for yet more increasing amounts of legislation about the new currency of carbon.

That’s why I set up Green-Car-Guide.com. I believe if someone feels passionate about achieving a goal, it’s possible to achieve whatever you want. I believe that it’s possible for millions of people around the world to continue their love affair with cars, by having cars that are fun to drive while at the same time emitting much lower levels of that weapon of mass destruction, CO2. And we’re aiming for our efforts to influence motor manufacturers to set their own goals to produce cars that are green and fun.

Today I was on the BBC again - the fourth time since our site was launched. A comment came up during the interview on the programme which has proved to be somewhat recurring – “Why do all green cars look so awful?” Obviously cars being green and sexy is as much of a mutually exclusive concept in people’s perception as cars being green and fun to drive. However now that the green agenda is riding the crest of a wave, the tide is also turning on green cars. Slowly, there are cars appearing that are making an effort to meet both of these polar opposites, and our aim is to make motorists aware of the latest cars that offer the fun that Jeremy Clarkson quite rightly wants, while at the same time demonstrating more responsibility towards our planet.

Paul Clarke
Founder, Green-Car-Guide.com & Promote Environmental Communication