Greenhouse Gas and the Climate Change It Causes: A Mismatch?

March 3, 2020

A study conducted by Glenn Althor (et. al) published by Scientific Reports earlier this month has a catchy thesis, but is it true? It proposes the worst offenders of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission (the United States and China) are likely to see the least effects. Althor summarizes:

In line with the results of other studies, we find an enormous global inequality where 20 of the 36 highest emitting countries are among the least vulnerable to negative impacts of future climate change. Conversely, 11 of the 17 countries with low or moderate GHG emissions, are acutely vulnerable to negative impacts of climate change. In 2010, only 28 (16%) countries had an equitable balance between emissions and vulnerability.

Though this study was touted by TIME and other leading news outlets, ClimateProgress’ Joe Romm, vehemently disagreed. He claims this study was “well-meaning but ultimately wrong,” though he never fully explains the flaws.

In essence, I believe a healthy middle approach is the solution in this case. The only argument between these two sources is the degree to which we feel the effects. Wealthier countries (such as the worst offenders- US and China) can more easily shrug off some negative effects of climate change, as the study suggests. Along with this, I also agree with Romm’s points, America and China are feeling the effects of GHG emission- just to a lesser extent than other areas. The US is suffering from terrible droughts, devastating wildfires, record setting temperatures, and the strongest El Nino we seen for some time. The NOAA Drought Report of 2015 said “When averaged together, the wet and dry anomalies resulted in the 24th driest January and February, and 23rd driest March, in the 1895-2015 record, but the wettest May, ninth wettest June, fourth wettest November, and wettest December.” In addition, “when averaged across the country, the cold and warm temperature anomalies resulted in the second warmest June and September, fourth warmest October, and warmest December.” The seesaw of precipitation and the heightened temperatures are too obvious to ignore.

We cannot deny that GHG emission and climate change is happening, and linked. We cannot deny that it is affecting certain geographic areas more profoundly, and affecting others slightly less. However, GHG is a global issues and touches everyone’s lives. As Althor reported, “by polluting the Earth’s atmosphere with GHG emissions through fossil fuel combustion, deforestation and agricultural activities, emitting countries are degrading the world’s climate system, a common resource shared by all biodiversity, including people.” This common resource, our climate, needs to be preserved and cared for. Let’s stop arguing over effects and links, and let’s start arguing over solutions.

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