Is ‘Stop Liking Men Who Drive Hot Cars’ Sound Climate Advice?

Richard Gray at the U.K. Telegraph reports that Sir David King, a University of Cambridge chemist, staunch global warming activist, and one of Britain’s top government scientists, gave the following advice to a woman who asked him what she could do to curb global warming:

“[S]top admiring young men in Ferraris.”

King’s larger point — that we should act individually to start a cultural shift that re-prioritizes gas guzzlers at the bottom of the desirability list — is probably valid. But broad assumptions about women liking hot cars (and the men who drive them) aside, the idea that one person’s decisions should be unrelated to his or her personal interests runs contrary to free-market models for achieving both personal and societally optimal results. In other words, trying to influence someone else’s consumer choices is far less effective than simply making those choices yourself. The woman’s goal — to reduce greenhouse gas emissions — would most efficiently be reached by taking direct action, like trading in her own gas guzzler for a hybrid, rather than indirectly signaling others to do so.

Not surprisingly, Ferrari owners are reportedly furious about King’s comment, with the Ferrari Owners Club responding that most owners of the cars are married (and thus aren’t driven to purchase them based on a desire to land women, the economics of which we’ve discussed before). In other words, they’re turning the discussion 180 degrees from King’s point, which is that individual consumer decisions can and do matter to global climate change. While King’s intentions were in the right place, he might want to rethink his methods of communication (not to mention his culturally limited decision to tell women that their biggest contribution to fighting climate change lies in encouraging men to fight climate change).

(Hat tip: Wired Blog.)


oldcar

Young men in Ferraris are not an object of desire. The Ferrari is a tired answer to a mid-life crisis. Any man under 42 driving a Ferrari is held immediately suspect of having insecurities, inadequacies, etc.

Also, buying a Telsa or a hybrid is not an answer to our environmental crisis. The amount of environmental resources that is channeled into producing a new car far outweighs the extra few miles of gallon you will get until the next hot item comes along and you replace the telsa with a new 'green' toy.Buying less new things, in general, is a good start.

Deborah

It's a good thing all those Ferrari drivers are already married. Many modern women, when they spot a guy in an ostentatious gas-guzzler (sports car or monster SUV, doesn't matter), immediately think, "Oh, dear. So sorry about your mid-life crisis and/or erectile dysfunction."

Real men walk, bus and bike!

T.O.

In response to Post No. 21 - The poster doesn't believe in Global Warming... Fine, my question is what research the poster has done into the matter? All climatologists are pretty consistent on this one, all the core ice samples from both Poles confirm warming, Glaciers are in full scale retreat, ice/snow coverage is down wherever measurements are taken, temperatures are rising,... The earth is heating up and the climatolgists say it is (at least in part) due to global warming caused by the human emission of greenhouse gasses. So I ask what evidence the poster has to the contrary... what is this grand deception the climatologists are all playing on us all (and what is the point of their joke)? Is the poster an authority with scientific credentials on the matter (I'm not on and rely on the scientific community) to dispute the scientific consensus that has emerged about Global Warming and if not does the poster have any papers or studies to hold out as evidence that we may turn to for enlightenment?

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T.O.

In response to Post No. 23 - Your post flies in the face of the leading authorities. See for example a summary of the the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change at http://www.davidsuzuki.org/Climate_Change/Science/IPCC/ Your conclusion that the trends are reversing themselves and restoring themselves (while a wonderful thought) remain, at best, a dangerous form of self delusional wishful thinking.

Moe

Global warming is the new communism. Same fervor, same anger, same impatience with dissenting views, same bullying, same misuse of "science". And in this case as in the case of communism, America fights alone.

Mike44ekiM

"global warming is the new communism".

Interesting take, yet, it's the eco-terrorists, ExxonMobile, BP... that use a combination of bribery and PROPAGANDA to stop us from Action.

Appetite

@ Brian Post 18 "Wasn't there a time when scientists spoke with cool, measured objectivity? They reported the results of their research, and left it to activists and politicians to use those findings to help shape public policy."

What time was that? Da Vinci? Newton? Benjamin Franklin? Modern economics? I can only think of counter-examples to your claims.

peter

Ferrari sells cars to pay for Formula 1 racing. Formula 1 pushes forward the frontier of automotive technology both in fuel efficiency and safety. I submit that Ferrari and Formula 1, net, contributes to improving the environment given that we all seem determined to continue to drive cars. We should salute the bald old geezer who buys a Ferrari and drives it a few miles a year so that Ferrari can afford to invest in new technology.

Marie

U.S. Senate Report:

Over 400 prominent scientists from more than two dozen countries recently voiced significant objections to major aspects of the so-called "consensus" on man-made global warming. These scientists, many of whom are current and former participants in the UN IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), criticized the climate claims made by the UN IPCC and former Vice President Al Gore.

The new report issued by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee's office of the GOP Ranking Member details the views of the scientists, the overwhelming majority of whom spoke out in 2007.

Even some in the establishment media now appear to be taking notice of the growing number of skeptical scientists. In October, the Washington Post Staff Writer Juliet Eilperin conceded the obvious, writing that climate skeptics "appear to be expanding rather than shrinking." Many scientists from around the world have dubbed 2007 as the year man-made global warming fears “bites the dust.”

THE EMPEROR IS WEARING NO CLOTHES.

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Gaia

Sir David does not go far enough. We won't get anywhere until drivers of gas-guzzlers are treated (deservedly) with the same hatred & contempt currently reserved for cigarette smokers.

Christine

I also must comment that some women are just admiring the Ferrari - not the man (or woman) in them.
And if they want to enjoy gorgeous cars AND be environmentally friendly...go with a Tesla!

Appetite

"But broad assumptions about women liking hot cars (and the men who drive them) aside, the idea that one person's decisions should be unrelated to his or her personal interests runs contrary to free-market models for achieving both personal and societally optimal results."

This is why free market models fail. There's more going on than 'man wants nice car. woman dissuades man from buying car'. King's comment implied that 'man wants nice car because woman wants man with nice car and man wants woman'.

Quincy

"Nobody makes a greater mistake than he who does nothing because he could only do a little." --Edmund Burke

Hmmm

Maybe all the owners in the Ferrari club were single when they got their Ferraris?

Michael

You'd think a sports car would be lightweight and aerodynamic - which would imply good fuel efficiency.

Lo and behold, googling "lotus elise mpg" gives me numbers in the region of 40mpg combined ( http://www.elises.co.uk/models/s2/111/index.html )- which is competitive with some (admittedly poorer performing) hybrid cars ( http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/hybrid_sbs_cars.shtml )

Of course, a decent motorbike can get 100mpg - I wonder if King thinks women should prefer bikers?

Fritz

I love the defense that Ferrari (and other fancy car) owners are married means that those same guys aren't out trolling for a piece on the side. Just count the wedding rings (or wedding ring tans) in Chicago's Viagra Triangle.

Kevin DeGuiles

To quote the previous post:

"This is why free market models fail. There's more going on than ‘man wants nice car. woman dissuades man from buying car'. King's comment implied that ‘man wants nice car because woman wants man with nice car and man wants woman'." - Appetite

Actually, yes, thats what he's implying and he's probably got the right idea. The entire field of evolutionary psychology is based around just these sorts of notions of human nature and motivation. The problem here is not that "free markets are failing" the problem is that the market is not taking into account the externalities of the issue. You need to factor-in these externalities for the market to efficiently take account of the effects of global warming.

Ferrari's are "bad" because they get terrible mileage and cause great amounts of pollution because of it. How do you correct this? How about a higher tax on oil per gallon at the pump? Afraid that the "poor people with huge gas-guzzling cars that drive them around the country" will be too hurt by it, then lower income taxes.

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MM

The global warming cause is also an attack against pleasure, which is why it is so popular, especially in puritanical societies, among millions of people who have no clue about science. The idea that others may experience pleasure is unbearable to people of a puritan bent. The more extremist global warming activists are against smoking, tourism, having children, and many of the other pleasures of life.

I am not personally a fan of Ferraris, but they happen to be among the most technologically impressive cars ever built. A Ferrari owner deserves some recognition for his taste (and wallet). A lot of people have jobs thanks to Ferrari's industry.

Verdict: you can easily find a less grumpy chemistry professor, but you cannot find many cars like Ferrari. Supply, demand. Therefore, request denied! bad advice, Professor!

Appetite

"The problem here is not that “free markets are failing” the problem is that the market is not taking into account the externalities of the issue. You need to factor-in these externalities for the market to efficiently take account of the effects of global warming."

Not quite sure if you're disagreeing with my point, but to clarify, I said "free market models fail" because they have a very limited view of how people work. The neoclassical models, however, predict much more effectively for people who study them than for people live naturally as.. well, people. So, not only are the models weak, they are dangerous.

John

What's worse for the environment -- A few hundred Ferrari F430s getting 13 MPG, or several hundred thousand SUVs getting 15 MPG?