The United Nations Climate Change Conference is fast approaching and will potentially have a dramatic effect on you and me – i.e. people who enjoy driving cars.

The summit begins tomorrow, and will see more than 85 national leaders gather to discuss climate change and agree a round of measures to show the voters that they are doing ‘something’.

If you have been using the Internet in the last 10 days or so, you might have noticed a new term – Climategate.

Climategate has become part of our vocabulary after the unauthorised release of emails, documents and code from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia. Suddenly it has become one of the most searched terms on Google [Climategate results from Google] , with over 30 million results since first being coined just over a week ago. You would have to be Tiger Woods to pull more interest than that.

The cars that we drive, or would like to drive, are almost certainly going to get more expensive to buy, more expensive to drive and probably more expensive merely just to own. Because, as you already must know, cars are destroying the planet, tipping us towards climate Armageddon.

Or at least that’s what we’re told.

“The stink of intellectual corruption is overpowering” – Clive Crook, December 2009, The Atlantic Magazine

Drivers are becoming increasingly vilified as planet destroyers, willfully wrecking the environment to serve our own selfish interests. The assumption being perpetrated is that “if you love cars than you hate the environment”.

But why do the climate change zealots make these claims?

The simple answer is that we are an easy target. We have licences, registration documents, and can be traced, fined and banned from the roads if we do not comply with everything that is thrown in our direction. Generally law-abiding, we tend to accept the claims as true (we have had more than 20+ years of indoctrination on this one) and then go on to accept our punishment.

On what basis, though?

Let’s do the maths

Suspend your belief (or disbelief), if you can, that mankind is causing global warming – oops – better make that climate change just in case we all start to cool down again, and let’s think about some of the data.

CO2, the greenhouse gas that we are increasingly being taxed on for our emissions – because “it causes global warming” – makes up roughly 380 parts per million (ppm) by volume in the earth’s atmosphere.

That is roughly 0.038%, [CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere – Wikipedia] with the balance being approximately 80% Nitrogen, and just under 20% Oxygen. Mankind contributes roughly 3.2% of that 0.038% CO2, or (3.2/100) multiplied by (0.038/100), or, oh come on, you have probably worked this out already – the answer here is infinitesimal, or a lot less than very, very small. The answer is that 0.0012% of the atmosphere consists of manmade CO2.

If we break down the manmade figures even further, figures[1] produced on behalf of our very fine and trustworthy government, I should emphasise, we have a couple of important statistics. In the UK, CO2 emissions are estimated at 20.7 tonnes per household per year. Of this, the amount attributed to private car use is just 2.5 tonnes (or 12% of the UK total). This figure, is exceeded by those for:

• Direct fuel use in the home (3.6 tonnes, 17.3%)
• Electricity use in the home (3.0 tonnes, 14.5%)
• Aviation and public transport (3.3 tonnes, 15.9%)

There is a whole list of other sources of CO2, but the above shows that car use comes in at a rather unexciting and not terribly impactful 4th place in household emissions. But do not forget there are many other sources, not attributable to households, including heating and lighting of government offices for example…..

So the car is producing significantly less than 12% of manmade CO2 emissions in the UK. We could query the accuracy of the above figures, but you can absolutely bet your mortgage that the numbers attributed to private car use have not been played down. Anything but, I would suggest.

Let’s summarise, using a bit of judicious extrapolation (assuming that all countries have a similar profile in their production of CO2) – the car is producing less than 12% of 3.2% of atmospheric CO2 content. So, that means 12/100 multiplied by 3.2/100, which equals 0.384% of CO2 in the atmosphere. And the CO2 totals 0.038% of the atmosphere as a whole.

How much? Yes, and I am sorry, but I do have to get all scientific here, cars are producing less than half of close to bugger all of the Evil Gas© known as CO2. That is 0.384% of a tiny proportion of the atmosphere as a whole.

Surely nothing could be as important as CO2?

There is something else that you need to consider when reviewing the causes behind climate change. The effect of CO2 on global temperatures, is massively outweighed by other greenhouse gases, the most significant of which is water vapour.

Water vapour, as well as being present in much greater volumes than CO2, is hugely more effective as a greenhouse gas, volume for volume, than CO2. For some strange reason the Climate Change zealots choose to ignore this. I cannot think why.


At the start of this article we mentioned Climategate. The recent hacking – actually far more likely whistle-blowing by an insider – of emails, data and code from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.

The peer review process by fellow scientists has been compromised. Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation appears to have been undermined, and most damagingly data has been manipulated to suit the “message” with the original raw data lost/destroyed.

The blogosphere is alive with comments on the Climategate affair, and what it means for our received wisdom on climate change, and our impact on temperatures, therefore our ability to “mitigate” climate change (i.e. control the increases in temperature, to use one of UK Governments favourite words).

You can bet, however, that the car driver will be singled out in our leaders’ plans, post-Copenhagen. You can also bet that the environmental benefits of their actions will have absolutely no perceptible impact on the climate of this planet. The effect on your pocket may be a different matter entirely.

So why are politicians so hung up on punishing car drivers? Well, we’ve been the silent majority for decades whilst pro-environmental campaigners have lobbied their agendas to become a part of mainstream politics. The simple fact is that climate change has been a vote winner and it’s here to stay.

The solution

Well, firstly we need to turn the argument away from being about good-vs-evil – car drivers can be environmentalists too.

We also need to encourage our leaders to share the truth with us. All the evidence is now pointing to little or no warming in the second part of the 20th century. Even if you accept the original claims about increased temperatures, the impact of man-made CO2 emissions on temperatures is infinitesimal.

All along, the argument has been “we have increased temperatures but cannot account for them, so therefore it must be man-made CO2”. As well as not being a terribly convincing argument, it is now totally undermined by the truth of actual temperature data showing this lack of warming. The Climategate leak has shown this.

Car manufacturers have made substantial improvements in the past 30 years to reduce the impact of the vehicles we drive [US analysis of vehicle emissions since 1970], and [Highway Vehicle Emissions: 1970–2001 Comparison], so ultimately this is where more effort should be channeled – perhaps by governments to further incentivise investment in environmental technology through positive tax ‘incentives’ and allowances.

There are many challenges for our governments to overcome including the growth of emerging nations, de-forestation and our ever increasing demand for travel and energy.

What can you do about it?

We have been working together with Live Talkback, a company run by ex-Adobe director Matt Millar, who provide an application that enables audiences to vote via the web, mobile phones and TV screens on live events.

Well, we have a live event, and we would like to capture how you feel about the Copenhagen Climate Change summit as it happens.

Live Talkback is a cutting edge solution that provides a ‘real-time’ view of audience feedback – you can vote as many times as you want and your vote will be transferred if you change your mind during the summit. Your vote will remain totally anonymous so nobody will be able to contact you regardless of your choice.

So, don’t be silent, let’s show that drivers have a conscience too.

Click on one (or all) of the following links to enter your vote;

Poll 1: Climate Change Villains: are car drivers really to blame?

Poll 2: If driving was the major cause of climate change, what would you do?

Poll 3: Which produces the most CO2 per household in the UK?

(you will automatically be redirected to our mobile site if accessing the link from your phone). You can also load the application from the iTunes App Store by clicking on (App Store > Lifestyle > Live Talkback), or just type ‘live talkback’ into the search box.

Climategate Poll


[1]  “An Environmental Behaviours Strategy for DEFRA”, page 15.  Document obtained via “Climategate” release

Written By

Tony Braybon

 - Unrepentant petrol-head, who also happens to be a vegetarian tree-hugger, but no sandal-wearing, bicycling eco-warrior claptrap, here. You don’t have to be a cliché to care for the environment….

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