Climate change: Rich Americans spew more carbon pollution at home than poor
The world hit another new record high for heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, despite reduced emissions because of the coronavirus pandemic, scientists announced in June. Photo / AP file Rich Americans produce nearly 25 per cent more heat-trapping gases than poorer people at home, according to a comprehensive study of United States residential carbon footprints. Scientists studied 93 million housing units in the US to analyse how much greenhouse gases are being spewed in different locations and by income, according to a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences . Residential carbon emissions comprise close to one-fifth of global warming gases emitted by the burning of coal, oil and natural gas. Using federal definitions of income level, the study found that energy use by the average higher income person's home puts out 2940kg of greenhouse gases a year. For a person in the lower income level, the amount is 2370kg, the study calculated. "Polar bears are already sitting at the top of the world; if the ice goes, they have no place to go" Scientists warn polar bears could be lost by 2100 unless more is done to tackle climate change https://t.co/R8Two6NayZ "The numbers don't lie. They show that (with) people who are wealthier generally, there's a tendency for their houses to be bigger and their greenhouse gas emissions tend to be higher," said study lead author Benjamin Goldstein, an environmental scientist at the University of Michigan. "There seems to be a small group of people that are inflicting most of the damage to be honest." In Beverly Hills, the average person puts four times as much heat-trapping gases into the air as someone living in South Central Los Angeles, where incomes are only a small fraction as much. Similarly, in Massachusetts, the average person in wealthy Sudbury spews 4400kg of greenhouse gases into the air each year, while the average person in the much poorer Dorchester neighbourhood in Boston puts out 1010kg a year. NEW: Centrist House Democrats signal openness to higher deficits to pass Biden's plans Leaders of a group of fiscally-conscious Dems say now isn't the time to worry about debt and they'd be open to new borrowing on issues like climate and transportation. https://t.co/ZeDQZphATK "That is the key message about emissions patterns," said University of California San Diego climate policy professor David Victor, who wasn't part of the study. "I think it raises fundamental justice questions in a society that has huge income inequality." Even though richer Americans produce more heat-trapping gases, "the poor are more exposed to the dangers of the climate crisis, like heat waves, more likely to have chronic medical problems that make them more at risk to be hospitalised or die once exposed to heat, and often lack the resources to protect themselves or access health care," said Dr Renee Salas, a Boston emergency room physician and Harvard climate health researcher who wasn't part of the study. Salas and Sacoby Wilson, a professor of environmental health and epidemiology at the University of Maryland, who also wasn't part of the study, pointed to studies in Baltimore and other cities showing that because of fewer trees, more asphalt and other issues, temperatures can be more than 10 degrees hotter in poorer neighbourhoods. "Heat waves are hell for the poor," Wilson said. . @GretaThunberg : My experience however is that people understand much less about the climate crisis than youd think. If theres anything Ive learnt from traveling around the world it is that the level of knowledge and awareness is close to nonexistent https://t.co/6CrknElbQA Goldstein calculated the emission figures by crunching data on 78 per cent of the housing units in America as of 2015, factoring the home's age, size, heating supply, weather, electricity source and more. He then compared income levels. Nine of the 10 states that produce the most heat-trapping gas per person rely heavily on coal or have cold weather. West Virginia by far leads the nation with 4445kg of greenhouse gas per person per year, followed by Oklahoma, Wyoming, North Dakota, Kentucky, Missouri, Iowa, Alabama, South Dakota and Colorado. California by far is the greenest state with 1230kg of greenhouse gas per person. Oregon, New York, Utah, Washington, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Idaho, Connecticut and New Mexico round out the 10 cleanest states. The study's 25 cleanest zip codes for residential greenhouse gas emissions are all in California and New York. The cleanest was Mission Bay in San Francisco, a white collar area with relatively new housing stock, where the average person produces only 600kg a year. The science is clear. This is our one chance. A 2009 Profile of the scientist James Hansen, whose early climate models predicted most of what has happened to the climate since. https://t.co/3UtEfs2XGi The zip codes that produced the most gas are scattered across Colorado, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Louisiana, Wyoming, Maryland, West Virginia, Minnesota, Missouri, Georgia, Arkansas, Indiana and Utah. The zip code that produced the most greenhouse gas per person was in the mountains of western Boulder County, Colorado, where the 10,800kg per person is 18 times higher than in the San Francisco zip code. Wesleyan University climate economist Gary Yohe, who wasn't part of the study, said Goldstein's analysis helps the search for solutions to global warming by offering "two new targets for policy action or behavioural modification beyond the usual list: floor space and density." But residential carbon emissions are harder to change than those from transportation, where you can trade a gas-guzzler for a cleaner electric vehicle, Goldstein said. Noting that many residents are stuck with the fossil fuel-based energy delivered by their local utility, he said, "I don't think we can solve this based on personal choices. We need large scale structural transitions of our energy infrastructure." - AP Coast guard boat rams dingy throwing around 50 migrants into sea.