Every day we make decisions that involve some form of compromise. We have competing interests that we have to weigh up and then we make a decision. I like the idea of staying in bed all day and catching up on some movies but my kids need someone to get them organised for school.

Going to work today? Sounds lame. Surely taking a permanent holiday would be better – but I need to work to generate an income so I can take that holiday.

I know of an 85” 8K TV that would look great in my loungeroom but if I choose to spend $13K on a TV then I would need to choose to cut back on something else…like food! So, I buy a smaller TV…and I buy food.

We are constantly making decisions with how best to utilise our money and our time and, without realising it, we are constantly weighing up options with every decision we make.

When people see one of my electric vehicles (EVs) or talk to me about them, the common statement I hear is “I love the idea of an electric car, but I couldn’t get one because…” and insert any one of a number of reasons. “I like a powerful car” or “I need more range” or “I don’t know where to charge them” or “I live in a rental” or “I can’t afford one” or…

Let me turn that argument on its head.

In an alternative universe, everyone drives an electric car. Someone turns up with a new car that has a flammable liquid stored under the boot. That fuel is burned in a combustion chamber to turn mostly into heat and noise and about thirty per cent of it in to forward motion. While sitting at a café talking to friends, one of them tells me about his new internal combustion engine vehicle (ICEV). I don’t want to offend my friend, so I say, “I love the idea of an internal combustion engine car, but…” and I insert “I like a car with instant acceleration” or “I don’t like standing around at a petrol pump wasting time filling up” or “I don’t like all that noise of the engine” or “I can’t afford that expensive fuel” or “I hate the pollution that the car is producing” or “I don’t want to destroy the planet” or…

People make their decisions emotionally and justify them irrationally. For our modern society, we become comfortable in what we are doing and we only want to make a change if it is going to make our life better today. The future can look after itself!

My household is now proudly free of internal combustion engines. It has taken me fifteen years to finally arrive at this point. In 2005 it started with a Toyota Prius. In 2010 I replaced the petrol lawnmower with an electric robotic lawnmower. In 2011 I installed 10kW of solar panels because I could see where I was headed and I wanted to make sure I could generate more electricity than all my electrical appliances would use. By 2012 I had my first car driven primarily by an electric motor – admittedly with a petrol backup engine to remove my range anxiety. My first fully electric car came in 2015 by which time I had replaced all my appliances – whipper snipper, chainsaw, etc – with electric versions. Having a household with one electric car and two hybrids for the last couple of years I have finally sold the hybrids and replaced them with EVs so my household now uses no petrol or diesel and instead houses three EVs.

Has that process involved compromises along the way? Of course. As mentioned, every decision involves some form of compromise. Were the compromises worth it? I would say absolutely. There is only one planet and with such poor government leadership in relation to the future of our planet I am convinced that the saving of our planet will not be led by government but it will be led from the ground up. By us.

Consider the following slightly oversimplified example. In Australia light vehicles generate approximately twelve percent of the 550 million tonnes of greenhouse gases we produce annually – or 66 million tonnes. We have 20 million cars in Australia and we purchase around a million new cars each year. Forget government leading the way. Imagine if every individual that was going to buy a new car this year made a commitment to buy an EV. That would replace five per cent of our national car fleet and, if every purchaser of an EV committed to purchasing green power, that would immediately reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 3.3 million tonnes. Do that for ten years and half of our ICEV fleet would be replaced and our production of greenhouse gases would be reduced by 33 million tonnes. Now that is only six per cent – but it is a good start. Under the Paris Climate Agreement Australia has an inadequate target of a 26-28 per cent reduction in emissions compared to 2005 levels by the year 2030. A six per cent reduction led by the people is at least a good starting point.

Once a government sees a groundswell of movement and opinions quickly changing, you can bet your voting opinion that they will be very quick to jump on the bandwagon. You might think that we have a poor policy in relation to greenhouse gas emission standards for cars sold in Australia. Not only is that not correct – there is NO standard in place at all. I can see this quickly changing once it is demanded by public action. Unfortunately, I no longer think it is correct to call our politicians our leaders. They are now followers. They follow public opinion so we have a huge opportunity to shape that opinion and demand policy that reflects our desire.

We don’t necessarily have to like being in lockdown due to COVID-19, but most people are generally accepting of the science behind the decision to keep us apart. In much the same way, most people are now accepting of the science behind Climate Change – even if we don’t like it. Unlike our current pandemic however there still seems to be very little action from government to protect the planet from ourselves. It is up to every single one of us to make small changes that collectively will make a difference.

The question is…are you prepared to make this compromise for the benefit of future you?

Mathew Dickerson

Mathew Dickerson is not a Climate Change Scientist. Mathew takes his car to a mechanic, visits his doctor when sick and uses an accountant to lodge his tax returns. He also has confidence in the scientific process. He is applying logic to a problem that is discussed in society every single day.

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