The Telegraph reports that Britain's Liberal Democrats are to vote on a policy that would ban most cars by 2040.
"Ban all Liberal Democrats by 2040," is the likely response from many who believe we have the God-given right to pollute.
Truthfully, I have a hard time seeing this idea gaining much traction in the near-term future, but that doesn't mean it's a worthless discussion. What constitutes "freedom" in an age of potentially catastrophic climate change is a crucially important question. (I am an environmentalist, and yes I do want to limit your freedom.)As Alex Steffen argued in an interview about Zero Carbon Cities, we need to insist on a realism that is based on actual reality. And reality includes some extremely sobering news about the future of our climate unless we curb carbon emissions and fast.
That's not to say a ban on cars is the best way to go about it. There's legitimate debate about what policy measures will transition us to a low carbon future in as rapid, sustainable, equitable and prosperous manner as possible. But the debate is not about the end goal, but the means and timeframe of getting there.
Every time we have a serious discussion about phasing out polluting technologies like the internal combustion engine, or introducing a carbon tax, or massively ramping up clean energy, the debates themselves send a signal to the world's investors, inventors, entrepreneurs and policy makers alike.
Regardless of the current political status of the fossil fuel lobby, given the unquestionable march of manmade climate change, it's hard to see the long-term policy environment for fossil fuel-based technologies as anything but decidedly rocky. Meanwhile, it seems certain that policies favoring the decarbonization of our economies will continue to gain traction.
Or, to put it another way, which would you rather invest in today - The Tesla or The Hummer? (You might want to look at Tesla's impressive earnings before you answer.)