VW scandal and 2011 Environmental Choices analysis

The VW scandal is a shocking example of cynical corporate behaviour on a huge scale. I am very glad that VW has been exposed. It also throws light onto some analysis I did based on Environmental Choices data back in 2011.

For the February 2011 edition of Sustainable Business magazine I wrote a piece about ‘Do people who are concerned about climate change drive green cars?‘. I was surprised that in England I could not find a relationship between people’s concern about climate change and their likelihood to drive a lower-emission car. At the time, one of the things I wondered about was the ‘green’ credentials of diesel cars despite their lower-emissions test figures. Given what we know now, it seems that a simple reading of the CO2 performance of cars is not a strong independent variable for this analysis in England.

From my February 2011 article:

We tested this idea on our Environmental Choices data for England, Canada and the USA using the null hypothesis that ‘there is no relationship between people’s concern about climate change and how ‘climate-friendly’ their car is’.

I was quite surprised by the result. The test showed that in North America, Climate Citizens are significantly more likely to use lower-emission cars than Sceptics/Uninvolved. This difference is especially pronounced in Canada (at over 99% confidence), and directionally significant in the US (90% confidence). Yet, in England the study showed no evidence that Climate Citizens use lower-emission cars than Sceptics/Uninvolved.

It will be interesting to explore further what might be behind this. Comparing England with North America, is it to do with the range of car types available, how people see car transport within their overall travel mix, the time lag between being concerned about climate change and changing the cars-on-the-road, and/or the environmental credentials of diesel? To take the last point, around a quarter of English cars are run on diesel, a fuel little used in North America. Whilst diesel provides better tail-pipe emissions than equivalent petrol cars, it may be difficult to think of diesel as being ‘green’, especially when it generates 12% higher emissions per litre than petrol.




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