US Carbon Emissions Rose 3.4% in 2018

Federico Mansilla
Enero 11, 2019

New research estimates that in 2018 climate change-causing carbon dioxide emissions rose sharply in the United States, an increase of 3.4%, the largest increase in eight years. But economic growth offers a better explanation, according to Rhodium Group researchers.

The report means the U.S.is less likely to meet its reduction targets under the global Paris climate agreement, according to Andrew Light, a senior fellow at the World Resources Institute.

"The U.S. was already off track in meeting its Paris Agreement targets".

The findings also underscore how the world's second-largest emitter, once a global leader in pushing for climate action, has all but abandoned efforts to mitigate the effects of a warming world.

The spike occurred even though 2018 saw a record amount of shutdowns of power plants fired by coal, the fuel richest in carbon output when burned. But increases in the demand for diesel and jet fuel still made transportation the biggest source of carbon emissions throughout the U.S. The U.S. ranks number two on the list of the world's countries by Carbon dioxide emissions; China is first, and India is the third.

The report said in order for the U.S.to reach those commitments, which equate to a 26-28 percent reduction in carbon emissions from 2005 levels by 2025, the country will need to "reduce energy-related CO2 emissions by 2.6 percent on average over the next seven years - and faster if declines in other gasses do not keep pace".

President Trump has at times denied the basic science of climate change, which states that burning coal, oil and natural gas produces emissions that trap heat in the atmosphere, warming the planet. Researchers of the report believe this is partly due to a colder winter in 2018 combined with population growth. Industries are moving more goods by trucks powered by diesel, while consumers are travelling more by air.

Despite mounting urgency in the scientific community, the Trump administration plans to continue reducing regulations on a number of greenhouse gas-emitting sectors in 2019.

The trend might come as a surprise to some, considering coal plants continue to shut down despite President Donald Trump's attempts to bring them back.

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Despite this, there is little to cheer in the United States data for those concerned with climate change on a global scale. That is both the year when the United States can formally exit the Paris climate agreement and the year when member countries need to announce more-ambitious climate plans.

The latest emissions data indicate that this is unlikely to happen.

This is the largest annual increase since 2010, when the nation was bouncing back from a financial crisis known as Great Recession. "Natural gas-fired generation increased by 166 million kWh during the first ten months of the year".

Mr Trump has rolled back a number of his predecessor's environmental regulations since taking office, appointing climate change sceptics and industry leaders to head USA environmental agencies.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) previous year moved to give states more leeway in setting emissions standards for power plants, with its Affordable Clean Energy rule offered as a replacement for the Obama-era Clean Power Plan.

Media captionNo more beef?

Elgie Holstein, Senior Director for Strategic Planning of the Environmental Defense Fund, tells Salon this report is a "sobering reminder" that, while scientists are warning the world to act quickly on climate change, the Trump administration is working trying to dismantle previously established safeguards.

The US jump also marks a worldwide trend: 2018 saw an all-time high for global Carbon dioxide emissions and was the fourth warmest year on record.

The Trump administration in the past year has relaxed emissions rules for the power generation and transportation sectors. Figuring those in, the research firm said the US would need to completely reverse its emissions trends in the power sector to meet the targets. The buildings and industrial sectors also both posted big year-on-year emissions gains.

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