At a Time of Climate Crisis: Car bloat’ is driving climate change and making roads less safe

At a Time of Climate Crisis – Time to tackle autobesity

MaREI researcher Dr Hannah Daly at ERI, University College Cork wrote an article for her monthly column for the Irish Times entitled ‘Car bloat’ is driving climate change and making roads less safe’. 

The trend towards larger, heavier car sales is probably the best demonstration that we are not taking the climate emergency seriously.

New cars now weigh 1.5 tonnes, growing a staggering 300 kilograms in the past two decades. Each car is carrying around extra weight equivalent to four adults.

This “autobesity” had many downsides.

Carrying this extra weight pushes up the fuel consumption of a typical car substantially. Over the course of its whole life, driving maybe 300,000 kilometres, this amounts to an extra 1,500 litres of petrol and diesel, which, when burned, emits 3.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide and more air pollution, from the exhaust and from the tyres and road. It also makes driving more expensive and exacerbates the energy insecurity Ireland suffers from because of fossil fuel dependence.

Larger cars also take up more space, increasing the threat to other road users. The streets of Irish towns and cities are already vehicle-centred, rather than human-centred. The bloat of cars reinforces their dominance on the roads. It is not surprising that people prefer to be inside a car than to be on the street, walking or cycling. Increasing car dependency and more hostile streets then, of course, perpetuates more car use: In 1986, nearly three times more children and students propelled themselves to school and college on foot and bike than by car. Now, the situation is reversed, and twice as many are driven.

Read the full article here.