Three USFSM faculty members collaborated on two environmental studies.

USFSM studies examine CO2 issues in U.S., China

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: March 06, 2018

SARASOTA, Fla. (March 06, 2018) – Two studies by USF Sarasota-Manatee researchers detail the connection between rising CO2 emissions and economic growth in the United States and China and how public attitudes toward CO2 vary in each of the countries.

feng hao usf usfsm

Dr. Feng Hao

“A Comparative Study of the Economy’s Environmental Impact between States in the United States and Provinces in China,” published last month in the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, the official journal of the Association of Environmental Studies and Sciences, analyzes the impact on emissions of a 1-percent increase in gross domestic product.

The study’s authors note that as a result of the higher GDP the U.S. saw a “0.192 percent increase in CO2 emissions, net of other variables in the model” while China experienced a “0.544 percent increase in CO2.” Together, the nations accounted for 43 percent of global CO2 levels in 2013.

The study – analyzing state-level data from 1997 to 2014 in the United States and provincial-level data from 1997 to 2009 in China – is a collaboration of Dr. Feng Hao and Dr. Michael Snipes, researchers at USFSM, and Dr. Guizhen He of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.

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Dr. Michael Snipes

In addition to examining the impact of GDP, the researchers found that states and provinces in affluent regions showed lower CO2 levels than poorer areas in each of the countries. Lead author Dr. Hao said this isn’t surprising.

“The affluent states and provinces have adequate resources to develop advanced technologies to increase production efficiency or to promote infrastructures to help improve the environment. However, there might be a hidden scalar effect that can account for environmental improvements in affluent regions,” he said.

Dr. Hao’s second study, “Environmental Concern in the United States and China: The Influence of Measurement in National Context,” forthcoming in the journal Social Currents, examines social attitudes toward rising CO2.

Writing with Dr. Weiwei Huang and Dr. Melissa M. Sloan, also of USFSM, Dr. Hao noted that Americans are no less concerned about the environment than Chinese or vice versa. However, a closer look noted some differences in public attitudes.

Dr. Melissa Sloan

Dr. Melissa Sloan

In China, where air pollution is more severe and plainly visible, the Chinese are generally more attuned to perceived dangers of high CO2 levels and willing to make greater sacrifices to lower emissions than Americans. However, Americans generally engage in a greater number of “pro-environmental behaviors than the Chinese” as a regular feature of their everyday lives, the study said.

“In particular, Americans are more likely to recycle, buy fruits without pesticides, reduce energy and avoid buying certain products for environmental reasons,” Dr. Hao said.

His study is based on previous reports about public attitudes toward CO2 as well as two General Social Surveys in the United States and China in 2010. The surveys relied on 16 identical questions about the environment.

“The identical questions in the two surveys conducted in the same year makes the comparison meaningful,” Dr. Hao said. “The findings are based on data of the general public of the two countries, which can assure representativeness and accuracy.”

Dr. Hao is an assistant professor of sociology and interdisciplinary social science at USFSM. He has produced or collaborated on five published studies since his arrival at USFSM in August 2016.

“It was nice to have wonderful colleagues who work on interdisciplinary projects and have similar research interests,” he said of these latest works.

Dr. Snipes is an economics instructor and Dr. Sloan is an associate professor of sociology and interdisciplinary social sciences.

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