Former chief scientist Sir David King admitted Wednesday he was wrong in advising the U.K. government to encourage diesel vehicles to fight global warming.
King said the government overestimated the effectiveness of its programs to encourage diesel vehicles. King was the U.K.’s chief scientific adviser from 2000 to 2007 and until recently a special representative for climate change.
King advised the U.K. government to push programs to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and concluded that switch to diesel cars would be better for the environment.
“What was on our minds very heavily was how do we reduce carbon dioxide emissions given the challenge of climate change,” King told BBC Radio. “Diesel-driven vehicles can do more miles per gallon and it seemed an obvious way forward to go down the diesel route.”
Government support of diesel cars led to sophisticated cheating on the part of car companies to ignore environmental standards while pocketing subsidies. The car company Volkswagen pleaded guilty last month to charges that it cheated fuel emissions tests in 2015. The cheating allowed Volkswagen to fool regulators into thinking its diesel vehicles benefited the environment.
“What we were anticipating was that the Euro standards being met would mean that diesel manufacturers would have to reduce their NOx emissions,” King said. “It turns out we were wrong.”