29 July 2008

Keep your vehicles how you choose

One of the most common responses I get when people learn that I'm a climate scientist is that they tell me we're (climate scientists) all just trying to take away their SUV. Don't know why it's always an SUV when it gets mentioned, but it is. Anyhow, we're not (I don't think so; certainly nobody ever mentioned that policy to me), and I certainly am not. What I'm after is for decisions to be made using good information. Intelligent people of good intent can look at the same information and come to different conclusions. That's life. But a lot of what is out there is bad information. Bad information does not make for good decisions.

For instance, suppose you decided that emitting carbon dioxide was indeed a bad thing to do with the climate system and you have an SUV that gets 20 mpg. Should you toss it for a car that gets 30? I dunno. If you're driving six people in that SUV all the time, and would have to take two cars to carry them instead, you're better off with the SUV. A catch, of course, being that comment about 'all the time'. If very few of your miles are driven with the SUV fully loaded, then two 30 mpg cars would be better. And if the cars were 50 mpg, then even if the SUV really were fully loaded all the time, you would indeed emit less carbon dioxide even with two cars.

One thing I'll add: The people who tell you that climate scientists want to take away your SUV are trying to scare you. They don't want you to think about the science. Even if I'm rather optimistic about some things, I have to figure that people who don't want me to decide based on our best understanding of science are trying to get me to do something I wouldn't if I thought about it.

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