I live on a large compound of about 225 houses. The occupants are highly educated professionals, mostly employed in the energy sector. Some of the spouses are school teachers, some nurses, one is a judge, there are bank managers and accountants and retired engineers. People you would expect to be informed and conscientious about all sorts of things.
My neighbour has two teenage children who attend a school on the other side of town. There is a school bus for this school, which leaves the compound about 7.10 each morning. The school bus picks up at the main club house, which is about 100 metres from their house as the crow flies. To walk it is less than 200 metres, and to drive, it is about 300 metres.
Sometimes it is very hot here, as you know. During the summer when it is about 50, school is closed and all the families flee. Most of the school year it is warm – maybe 30 – lately it has been a very pleasant 20 or so. It almost never rains. At 7 am it is usually quite comfortable.
My neighbour drives her offspring to the bus every morning. EVERY MORNING.
We all know that vehicles pollute. Do you know that the worst pollution occurs during the ‘cold start’ phase, when the engine is cold and the catalytic converter has not yet reached optimum temperature? Emissions are highest during those first 5-10 minutes of operating.
I did a little calculation on the emissions (cold start only) my neighbour has generated over the 5 years she has driven her children to the bus every morning:
5 years x 8 months x 5 days = about 850 trips
Conservatively, each cold start produces: 2.5 g VOC (volatile organic compounds, ie hydrocarbons); 2.1 g NOx (oxides of nitrogen); 19.7 g CO (carbon monoxide); and particulate matter. (Rates from the US EPA, based on an average passenger car, not a 4x4monster.)
These translate to: 2.125 kg VOC, 1.785 kg NOx and 16.745 kg CO over the five years.
It takes longer to get into the car, start it and drive around the corner, than it does to walk. What does it teach the teenagers about consumption, exercise, independence?
Most mornings I am having my second cup of tea when this extravagance unfolds in front of my window. Most mornings I shake my head in frustration and wonder.
Global warming? Not my problem, eh?