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'Disturbing:' CT's harmful greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise – and experts are alarmed

File- Traffic on I-84, east of Hartford.
Tyler Russell
Connecticut Public
File- Traffic on I-84, east of Hartford.

Greenhouse gas emissions in Connecticut are going up and the state’s transportation sector remains the top greenhouse gas polluter, according to a new state report released Thursday.

The COVID pandemic brought with it one bright spot for the environment: a dip in greenhouse gas emissions as cars stayed off roads. But since then, Connecticut’s greenhouse gas emissions have been going up, according to the report from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

“This is not good news,” said Katie Dykes, DEEP’s commissioner.

As those emissions rise, the state is not on track to hit its 2030 pollution-reduction targets, she said.

In Connecticut, transportation accounts for over 40% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“Largely from the exhaust from vehicles that are combusting fossil fuels, gasoline and diesel,” Dykes said. “We have not seen a significant decrease in those emissions since 1990.”

Other leading contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in Connecticut include residential and commercial building heating that uses fossil fuels.

Greenhouse gases trap heat and make the planet warmer, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. While better vehicle fuel economy has helped to drive down emissions from individual vehicles, officials said those environmental gains have been offset by people driving more.

Dr. Mark Mitchell, co-chair of the Connecticut Equity and Environmental Justice Advisory Council, called the emissions news “disturbing.”

Vehicle-based emissions are significant contributors to air pollution-related conditions, such as asthma, premature birth, autism, ADHD and Alzheimer's Disease.

“This disproportionately affects low-wealth communities … and also disproportionately affect people of color of all income levels, due to historical and systemic racialized policies, such as the location of highways and other sources of pollution,” Mitchell said in a statement.

Human-caused climate change will continue to have a significant impact on the environment and public health, said Dr. Manisha Juthani, the Connecticut Department of Public Health commissioner.

“Increased emissions can result in drastic shifts in precipitation patterns, more frost-free days, and more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,” Juthani said in a statement. “The public health costs associated with [greenhouse gas] emissions far exceed any dollar value.”

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.

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