Can you be an environmentalist and still drive a car? The question came to mind last week, when the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report that gave us 12 years to stave off cataclysmic climate change. If the world’s governments, businesses and people don’t act and act dramatically, global warming could rise more than 1.5 C and cause droughts, famine, floods and heat.
It’s a dire prediction.
As a driver, it forces you to think about your culpability. The automobile, after all, is a significant contributor to climate change. The Environmental Protection Agency maintains that cars and trucks account for 14 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. So, you can either draw up a list of “10 Cars You Should Drive Before the Apocalypse”, or you can take a hard look at what you drive, how much you drive and whether you should be driving at all.
I’ve decided to do both. Some dream drives, some environmental action. A little sweet and a little sour.
Say no to the SUV
Sport-utility vehicles are behemoth gas-guzzlers, and their ever-soaring world-wide popularity is depressing. They’ve never been to my taste. Car makers are supposed to be introducing electric SUVs in 2019. But really, does the world need the SUV that much? Can’t we get by with fewer? Looking at their sales figures, the answer is no.
Sicily by 124 Fiat Spider Europa
They say, “See Naples and die.” I’ve spent a fair bit of time around Naples and in Campania, and I’m still here, so if the climate-change meltdown deadline is in 12 years, I’m going to opt to see Sicily by car. Specifically, a convertible red 124 Fiat Spider Europa. Sicily is full of history, culture, cuisine and roads that are guaranteed to challenge any driver. The 124 Spider is the epitome of casual Italian automotive cool. I’d start off at Catania and then hit Syracuse and proceed to Noto. Stops would be made at Maramemi and the “Valley of the Temples” near Agrigento. If the world hasn’t ended by the end of my tour, I’d probably want to see Naples again, so I’d fly over to check it out.
I’m in the market for a new car. An electric, or at the very least a hybrid, increasingly seems like the more responsible choice. Of course, the most responsible choice (environmentally speaking) would be to hole up in a cement box and live on insects, water and music. To some people, the very act of owning an automobile is an assault on our climate and the future of the planet. We could shut down the automobile sector entirely, but that would trigger a global economic collapse and social unrest that could cause – you guessed it – Armageddon. I think I’ll go electric or hybrid – maybe a Tesla Model S, Volvo XC, BMW i3 or a Camry Hybrid LE.
Scotland by Jaguar XJ
The Daily Telegraph has dubbed the North Coast 500 highway “Scotland’s Route 66.” It’s a circular route that starts and finishes at Inverness and covers the very top of Scotland’s rugged territory. The Jaguar XJ is an elegant luxury vehicle that makes a beautiful juxtaposition against the wild terrain of the Scottish Highlands. There are many distilleries to visit along the route, including Glenmorangie and the Dunnet Bay Distillery. This could help ease the despair (or worsen it, depending on your perspective).
We would all benefit from going on a driving diet. Walk. Cycle. Lay on the couch doing nothing. The United Nations even has an online “Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World.” How many trips are made by motor, simply by force of habit? Stop making driving a default mode of transport. When you do drive, make it count. Don’t make separate trips for every errand; string them into one journey. Maintain your vehicle. Well-tuned cars pump out fewer toxic fumes.
The 401 by Minivan
I’ve described Highway 401 with such varied profanity it would require an additional 1,000 words to catalogue it all. I’ve probably travelled the corridor from Toronto to Ottawa and beyond over 100 times. I’ve always taken the route for granted. So, I’d drive it once more and try to soak it all in – the Big Apple near Colborne, maybe take a diversion to Jungle Cat World, and stop for coffee at the ONroute near Odessa. Much like its owner, my minivan is a rolling testament to compromise and bourgeois complacency – it has a 3.3-litre V-6 engine, front-wheel drive and 170,000 kilometres on it.
Make climate change a critical political issue. It’s time for the moderate majority of drivers to step up and push for the “affordable scalable solutions” the United Nations is recommending. I’m referring to those drivers who don’t blindly subscribe to eco-Marxism or corporate capitalism, who don’t deny climate change but still believe that the automobile – a better, more environmentally agreeable breed – can play a productive part in our modern society. So far, the discussion has been held between those who hate the automobile and those who disparage climate change, even though all of science proves it’s undeniably real.
What have we got to lose?
Actually, we know exactly what we have to lose, and we’ve got around 12 years before we start waving it goodbye.