US carbon emissions increased 3.4 percent in 2018

Rodiano Bonacci
Gennaio 10, 2019

The Rhodium Group, who published the study on Tuesday, explained that the increase comes after three consecutive years of declining emissions in the United States.

The figures, based on data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration and other sources, remain an estimate because some data from a year ago is not finalized.

But the largest emissions growth came from two sectors "often ignored in clean energy and climate policymaking: buildings and industry".

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 new Rhodium group report represents a worrying reversal for the electric utility industry, raising questions about whether its recent formula for emissions reductions has outlived its usefulness.

This time last year, the Rhodium Group pointed to steady slowing of pace in emissions reductions over the past few years - from 2.7 percent decline in 2015 to a 1.7 percent decline in 2016 to a 0.8 percent decline in 2017.

In 2018, however, those economic factors changed.

The new research indicated that United States power sector emissions as a whole rose by 1.9%. and that the transportation sector "held its title as the largest source of USA emissions for the third year running", due to a growth in demand for diesel and jet fuel offsetting a modest decline in gasoline use. "This year makes it abundantly clear that energy market trends alone - the low cost of natural gas, the increasing competitiveness of renewables - are not enough to deliver sustained declines in US emissions". "Natural gas-fired generation increased by 166 million kWh during the first ten months of the year".

The increase in pollution from buildings highlights a particular problem for policymakers.

The report covers Carbon dioxide emissions linked to energy, which accounts for about three quarters of the total greenhouse gas emitted in the United States (methane, for example, is another gas that contributes to global warming).

That pace falls at the ambitious end of targets envisioned by the 2015 Paris Agreement, the world's largest worldwide climate treaty.

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

The Rhodium estimates do not take into account greenhouse gases other than carbon, such as methane, that contribute to warming.

Transportation is the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S.

In 2018, the USA saw the largest spike in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions since the start of the decade, rising 3.4 percent after three years of decline.

"That's more than twice the pace the U.S. achieved between 2005 and 2017 and significantly faster than any seven-year average in USA history", the report states.

The latest growth makes it increasingly unlikely that the United States will achieve a pledge made by the Obama administration in the run-up to the Paris climate agreement, that the country would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2025.

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.

Those actions are likely to increase calls in Congress and liberal states for more ambitious climate and clean energy policies. We need to pass a Green New Deal and hold fossil fuel executives accountable for exacerbating climate change.

Republican control of the Senate and White House means federal climate initiatives are unlikely to be enacted in 2019, but a number of states could take action on clean energy following Democrat gains in the November elections previous year. And while regulators can raise efficiency standards and change building codes for new construction, there's not much they can do to control energy use in existing homes and offices.

"We expect it to overtake power as the second leading source of emissions in California by 2020 and to become the leading source of emissions in Texas by 2022", the report states.

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