Will pandemic’s decline in fossil-fuel consumption reduce global warming?
To the editor:
Beware statistical bias.
Clearly, Vermont, as a state, has the lowest CO2 emissions in total metric tons because it’s one of the smallest and least populated States in the country. But, to put it in perspective, on a per capita basis, New York, California, Rhode Island, Oregon and Massachusetts have lower CO2 emissions than Vermont, with Maryland and Connecticut very close behind.
On a per square mile basis, Vermont ranks 9th lowest despite its small size. Not surprisingly, Alaska, Idaho, South Dakota, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, New Mexico and Maine have lower CO2 emissions per square mile.
As a country, the U.S. has one of the highest per capita CO2 emission rates. On the other hand, on a percentage per capita basis, total U.S. CO2 emissions have dropped more than most other countries. But that’s because U.S. CO2 emissions were relatively high in the first place.
The larger question is, of course, what effect does human made CO2 have on global warming in the first place. As it is, total atmospheric CO2 is about 4/100ths of one percent of our total atmosphere volume and has increased by about 1/100th of a percent (from 3/100ths of a percent to 4/100ths of a percent) over the last 100 years. In other words, yes, that’s a 30% increase. But as a percentage of our total atmosphere, the percentage increase is almost too small to calculate. CO2 is, after all, a ‘trace gas’, and computer models of its effect on temperature vary widely, despite claims that ‘the science’ is definitive.
Another interesting phenomenon relates to Covid-19’s effect on CO2 emissions. With significantly lower CO2 emissions in the U.S. and the world because of the economic shutdown, we don’t see commensurate changes in global warming. Yes, it may be too early to tell. But if such a draconian decrease in emissions now has so little immediate effect, one wonders what it will take to actually reverse global warming…if we even can.
H. Jay Eshelman
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