UN Climate Change report calls out SUVs
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This year's UN Climate Change report has come out: Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change, and it's certainly a reality check.
The 3,675-page report covers more than just motoring, emissions, and car-related information. It discusses the things we've done to mitigate climate change, the things that we need to do in the future, and whether they are being done fast or effectively enough.
The main takeaway is that we need to begin actively minimising the greenhouse gases we are releasing by 2025. And while the motoring industry has taken steps towards this, the sobering report outlines that there is still much that needs to be done.
The transport chapter highlights that on its current trajectory, there's a possibility emissions could increase between 16 percent and 50 percent by 2050. The majority of this is attributed to freight and the increased movement of goods around the world.
In terms of individual cars, the report outlines that the problem is that they're not a shared transportation system. Privately owning a car for one person or a small family to drive is much less carbon-efficient than many people sharing a vehicle. The report repeatedly highlights the importance of public transport infrastructure. It also suggests that autonomous ride-sharing could be a good solution.
The report acknowledges that many don't have the option of public transport, and suggests that workplaces need to be structured in a way that people don't need to drive. It also points out the need to develop new, clean fuels and put in clean electricity grids for battery-electric cars.
On the whole, the onus is put on infrastructure rather than individual responsibility. However, there is one situation where the onus is put on the individual car owner, and it's to do with SUVs.
The report reads: "People pursue cultural constructs such as status, comfort, convenience, hygiene, nutrition, and necessity. Consumption is, by and large, not an end in itself but a means to achieve some other end, and those ends are diverse and not necessarily connected to one another."
"Status seeking can work to reduce emissions when ‘green products’ such as an electric car or photovoltaics on the roof become a sign for high status."
"It also can work to increase emissions through visible and high-carbon intensive consumption items such as larger homes, fuel-inefficient SUV cars, and long-distance vacations, driven by a notion of having ‘to keep up with the Joneses,'" it adds.
Essentially, the report is saying that people who buy SUVs as a status symbol may be adding to the problem, by unnecessarily owning a large, high emitting vehicle.
Perhaps it's time to consider buying a smaller vehicle for your next purchase.