General Question

sferik's avatar

Will the economic downturn slow the rate of global warming?

Asked by sferik (6091points) November 28th, 2008

less energy consumption -> fewer carbon dioxide emissions -> slower rate of warming?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

16 Answers

asmonet's avatar

That seems like a really big question. The kind that studies answer. :-/

Maybe? I don’t think that a blip in the economy has that great of an effect long term though.

bluemukaki's avatar

The other option is an increase because Government funding which was going into that area will be diverted from research, public awareness campaigns and installing alternative energy plant into fixing the economy and such.

cdwccrn's avatar

Ever so slightly. May not even be measurable. Not enough to take comfort in. May cause a return to complacency.

chelseababyy's avatar

Global warming is nothing but a scam. There are documents on it. Oh, and just in the past year or so, Antarctica has gotten something like 33% bigger. Go listen to Alex Jones, he’s got all the details. www.endgame.com

jholler's avatar

I’m still not seeing this horrible economy…my county’s sales tax receipts for the month of September (the latest we’ve received) jumped 35.4% from this time last year…September is too late for back to school, too early for Christmas, so where’s the recession?

laureth's avatar

Well, the gas price is down (at least here) because they want people to be able to afford it, and a lower gas price almost always equals more people driving.

Also, it means that people will defer getting their cars fixed (as long as it still runs) and an improperly tuned car might reduce gas mileage or kick out more exhaust.

Basically, there are so many intertangled things that it could go either way.

@chelseababyy: There are also documents that say that climate change is real, too, and I’m sure both sides have their crackpots. Proves nothing.

steelmarket's avatar

Not unless we have a warm winter and cows stop passing gas.

dynamicduo's avatar

I don’t agree fully with your premise of an economic downturn leading to significantly less energy consumption. There will be a reduction in gas usage as people stay at home more often, or try to save money either on gas/heating/hydro, but people will be using more energy at their homes playing on computers or game systems, watching movies, cooking at home, having fires in their fireplaces (wood burning ones do pollute a bit), etc. Laureth brings up great points as well. And of course cows farting really does contribute a non-significant amount of pollution.

Energy could be reduced by businesses going out of business, but then China might build new and more polluting factories to replace those, equaling out to more pollution overall.

Plus, the economic situation has not really surfaced yet, let alone in countries other than America.

sferik's avatar

The main reason why energy prices have dropped so sharply is because global energy demand is down significantly (and figures to remain down for the foreseeable future). If we were using as much petroleum as we were a year ago, gasoline would still cost $4 per gallon.

I don’t think it’s reasonable to argue that energy is consumed at the same rate during a global recession as it is during a period of growth. New construction has halted, factories are slowing production, individuals are consuming and traveling less. Of course, new polluting factories may open in China but so much of the Chinese economy is driven by American consumption, I have trouble believing that they are opening at the same rate as they were a year ago.

Am I too eager to see an environmental silver lining in the dark economic cloud? I’m not claiming our environmental problems are solved for good, but doesn’t this slowdown have roughly the same effect as a government-mandated reduction of energy use? Does anyone have facts and figures about recent energy trends?

dynamicduo's avatar

In trying to find some more data for us to ponder, I found this interesting page that breaks down just how much of the greenhouse effect is caused by humans. I find Section 4 on that page to be very informative. Based on year 2000 data, humans only contribute less than 5% of CO2 levels, less than 20% methane and less than 5% N20, compared with what nature itself produces. It is with CFCs and other gases that human contribution greatly outweighs what nature contributes. I’m having trouble finding the exact breakdown and quantity of emissions a car produces, but I know a lot if it is carbon dioxide as well as N20 and other gases. Perhaps it is the case that cars are contributing a lot of “other gases” and thus the human impact for that emission group would go down if less miles were driven, but I’m not sure how much it would affect the other three and thus ultimately affect climate change.

laureth's avatar

Interestingly, this document from the U.S. government has human-generated methane emissions being about 60%, not <20%. I guess it depends where you look.

asmonet's avatar

@chelsea: Actually, the arctic became an island this year for the first time. It did not increase in size. That is a fact.

bluemukaki's avatar

@Asmonet: The Antarctic has an extra Ant than the Arctic. Also this is where the Japanese hunt Mr. Splashy Pants and his friends…

@Chelseababyy: If you look in the right places in Antarctica you can see growth in the ice-sheet.

But meanwhile, as Asmonet said, the Arctic is getting all melty.

justin's avatar

Yes – after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia’s emissions dropped substantially due to less industrial production with the crashing economy in the 90’s. That is why they are below their 1990 emissions levels under the Kyoto Protocols. Since US manufacturing isn’t a huge part of our economy, it might not affect domestic emissions too much, but all those factories closing in China and elsewhere does have an effect.

That being said, the slowing economy has an effect on emissions production today, but this is very different from a) total carbon in the atmosphere and the 50, 100, + years it would take for levels to drop back down ‘naturally’ and global average temperature to ‘stabalize’, and b) the long-term effort to move away from the carbon-based economy. It’s often argued that wealth is needed to become concerned about environmental hazards. But Obama is also framing retooling the carbon-based economy as an economic stimulus. So it’s hard to say on that one.

asmonet's avatar

@blue: That’s what I get for reading too damn fast. :’(

Noel_S_Leitmotiv's avatar

Yes.

The reality of the flagging economy will divert peoples attention away from trendy fallicies such as global warming.

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