Climate – Dubliners dying now

The latest report from the EPA makes clear that Ireland’s emissions are rising steeply again. 

You know that this is a bad thing because people are going to die when the planet warms up through various catastrophies.

But the fact is that right here, right now, in Dublin, people are dying of the pollution spewed out by cars. We don’t know how many exactly but we do know that hundreds and thousands of people die of respiratory-related diseases and that pollution from internal combustion engines help them on their way.

Our Government is like a rabbit caught in the headlights. Only last week, Environment Minister Roach was promising that we would meet our Kyoto commitments – mainly by buying carbon credits.

This means that we are going to spend over 200 million euro to buy the right to pollute from poor countries.

Think about that.

We are going to pay out cash so that we can continue to pollute the lungs of Dubliners. Rather than actually do something to reduce the pollution. 

There’s a lot of talk about biofuels and how they are carbon-neutral. This means that the fuel is made from plants like willow which absorb as much carbon while growing as they do when the fuel is being burned.

This is very true and we should do everything we can to encourage the use of biofuels instead of oil fuels. But it is still not an ideal long-term solution for urban settings like Dublin. That’s because no matter what you put in your diesel or petrol engine, pollution is going to come out the other end.

The alternative is electric vehicles. And I mean electric not hybrid. The main reason that hybrid cars, like the Toyota Prius, have become so popular is that they allow people unlimited range. But for many car owners, range is not a great concern.

One third of commutes in Dublin are under four miles and the vast majority of cars are used for less than 20 miles a day. Even in Dublin, where walking is competitive when it comes to car speed, this means that most cars are stationary for up to 22 hours a day.

So even with today’s battery technology, electric cars could satisfy the needs of at least half of Dublin’s car owners. Add to that the fact that many households have two or more cars and it is obvious that one electric car could be used as a run-around.

And as cars spend most of their time stationary it means that wind power is ideal for charging. So the technology is clean from start to finish.

But the car industry is notoriously shy about making such a huge change. And they are right. Such a change is a massive gamble for them on tight margins. They need to know that electric cars can work in our economy.

That’s where the Government comes in. They take the lion’s share of tax, whether VRT, VAT or fuel taxes. They have the power to start the changeover to electricity.

We must show some urgency on this matter. Public transport is vital but the car will remain with us. We have got to have the vision to see that pollution must end some day.