Are we in the midst of ‘climate change’ or a ‘climate emergency’? Personally, I don’t think there’s a debate.
My outlook is set towards emergency, forged on the groundswell of scientific research pointing that way and amplified by images of extreme weather events of recent months and years. But, because I rely on the testimony of experts rather than having any expertise myself, it is just an opinion. And one with which a lot of people argue.
Some reject that same scientific research I accept; some point to one of the (very few) expert reports running counter to my view; some put their faith in non-experts; and some simply don’t care.
The climate emergency – and by extension the move towards electrifying transport – is up there with Brexit, immigration, vaccination and more in its ability to divide. I’d even argue it has the potential to eclipse all their toxicity as time ticks on and crunch points arrive.
The risk, both to the planet and more specifically to the car industry, is that the climate joins other divisive topics to become weaponised. Certainly, today there are politicians and lobby groups making headway out of taking contrarian standpoints.
Science aside, they have plenty to draw on. New electric cars are relatively expensive, in some regards compromised, and more environmentally damaging to manufacture than combustion vehicles. You don’t need to be a genius to build an audience based on those broad statements.
The counter arguments, which I subscribe to, can get lost in nuance. Yes, electric cars are relatively expensive today, in pounds and upfront environmental cost, but they are a decade into serious development, not 120 years into it. Progress is coming – so long as we allow enough time for it to take effect.
Prices are falling and older cars are flowing into the used market in serious numbers now. The ecosystem of affordable electric cars is building. Already the whole-life environmental cost of the average EV eclipses that of an ICE vehicle after 20,000-40,000 miles of driving. That will further improve, as will ranges and the charging infrastructure. And that’s all before mentioning the benefits, from the way EVs drive to being able to charge them at home while you sleep.