We have cars because they have net benefits, not ban them because they have costs

Abi Wilkinson - admittedly, not unusually for someone in The Guardian - entirely forgets the most basic economics. She's missed opportunity costs:

If petrol and diesel vehicles were invented today, what possible justification would there be for allowing unchecked ownership? Knowing all we do about the damage wrought by burning fossil fuels – both to our immediate health and to the long-term viability of our habitat – it would seem an act of obscene, destructive decadence. The idea of driving a monstrous, tank-like 4x4 a distance you could easily walk or cycle, and then sitting outside a school (a school!) with the engine still running, guzzling petrol and burping out poison into the surrounding air, would be seen as actively malevolent.

 If such vehicles were allowed at all, they would surely be strictly regulated. Disabled people might be able to claim special dispensation because of the unique mobility difficulties they face. And perhaps people who live in very rural areas might also be permitted to own vehicles, on the basis that regular public transport isn’t viable. Certainly, things wouldn’t be like they are now.

We would add that the important people - whether we call them the peoples' commissars, politicians or gauleiters - would obviously have a car in this Brave New World.

But the basic error here is much deeper than that. Sure, we're entirely willing to agree that cars have costs, pollution among them - we are the people who touted the congestion charge for decades after all. But we would also insist that they have benefits.

We'd all be far poorer if we didn't have the transport made available by the internal combustion engine. Poorer in cash terms and much more importantly in our life choices. Do note that poorer people tend to die earlier so it's not even obvious that the absence of cars would reduce the death rate nor increase lifespans on balance. 

To miss that, to miss opportunity costs, is a signal of being ignorant of the very basics of economics. Further, to argue that we have a solution is an error too. For the outcome of economic study is that, by and large, we don't actually have solutions to anything. We only have trade offs. Are the costs worth the benefits?

Given that absolutely every society ever which has had access to a private and personal form of transport has taken full advantage of that availability we'd have to assume that the people think the costs are worth those benefits. Whatever the peoples' commissars, politicians and or gauleiters believe upon the subject.