Super Cities №254—When Bigger is Not Better

Brendan Hart

Did you know that, between 2010 and 2018, SUVs were the second largest contributor to the explosion in global carbon emissions?

That's right. SUVs were responsible for a larger change in carbon emissions than traditionally dirty sectors such as construction, mining, iron, steel, aviation, and shipping. SUV emissions are particularly savage when compared to the negative emission trend of other cars.

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Look, I get it. I have a wife, a kid, and a dog. Whenever we travel, we have to get creative with our packing, storage, and placement. Inevitably things have to be left behind. Our lives would be much easier with a hulking, 12-miles-per-gallon honker.

Unlike other areas of carbon emissions, America leads the way in SUV growth. At this point, one out of every two near cars purchased in the United States is an SUV. But SUVs are far from an American phenomenon. China and India – each billion-person markets – are not far behind at one out of four and one out of three, respectively.

The UK – where one in three new cars is an SUV – has plans to ban the sale of new gasoline cars by 2040 completely. In 2012, the Obama administration – supported by all the major car companies – announced a doubling of fuel standards for all new vehicles sold in the United States. The Trump administration has since turned up the dirty.

Like most things having to do with climate change, the explosion of SUV emissions is an unnecessary, self-inflicted problem. No one needs an SUV. From New York to Beijing, we choose to buy them.

That choice has a consequence, though. Our immediate comfort comes at the expense of our children's long term health and prosperity.

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