Now my family is as green and healthy as possible. We recycle our apple cores, the children play sport every day under the Westway flyover, we bought a second-hand diesel car and then a hybrid and take the train to Devon for holidays.
But the children are probably less healthy than I was 40 years ago. When the youngest started to wheeze I took him to the doctor who said he had doubled the number of inhalers he hands out in the past three years, so many children are becoming asthmatic.
“It’s the diesel, all that nitrogen dioxide and those toxic pollutants,” he explained. “He’ll inhale the particles in the car even with the windows shut, when he’s playing football by a busy road and even from the trains at the station.”
Our obsession with cutting carbon emissions has had terrible consequences. Air pollution contributes to an estimated 40,000 premature deaths a year in Britain, mainly among the young, the frail and the elderly, according to the Royal Colleges of Physicians and of Paediatrics and Child Health. It can also hinder brain development, raise the risk of heart attacks, strokes and cancer, and contribute to the onset of Alzheimer’s. …
European governments subsidized diesel cars to slightly reduce carbon emissions, but car companies cheated and their diesel cars are pumping out carcinogens in cities while not reducing carbon emissions:
Our attempts to be altruistic have harmed rather than helped the most vulnerable. Almost as bad, those 11 million people who now own a diesel car are about to be penalised for following government advice a decade ago that the vehicles would help the country cut CO2 emissions. …
Gordon Brown’s budget of 1998 may have said in the small print that the government “recognises the adverse effect that the use of diesel has on local air quality” but first as chancellor and then as prime minister he shifted incentives towards diesel, until more than 35 per cent of cars were running on it, while manufacturers fiddled their engine management systems to cheat the testers.
Japan, meanwhile, steered consumers away from polluting diesel, America stuck to petrol and India began switching buses to compressed natural gas (CNG).