Published: Fri, January 11, 2019
Research | By Raquel Erickson

USA carbon emissions increased 3.4 percent in 2018

USA carbon emissions increased 3.4 percent in 2018

The spike is the largest in eight years, according to Rhodium Group, an independent economic research firm.

This news comes as the U.S.is already struggling to meet its commitments under the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

"Absent a significant change in policy or a major technological breakthrough, we expect the industrial sector to become an increasingly large share of USA greenhouse gas emissions in the years ahead, including non-CO2 gases", the Rhodium report said.

The United States is the world's second largest emitter of greenhouse gases behind China.

To Brune's point, the Rhodium Group report noted that as of the end of October, 11.2 GW of coal-fired power generation capacity had closed in the U.S.in 2018, and another 2.5 GW of capacity was scheduled to retire by year-end.

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

It's worth noting that Carbon dioxide emissions are still down 11-percent from 2005 levels.

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.

"That's more than twice the pace the USA achieved between 2005 and 2017 and significantly faster than any seven-year average in U.S. history", the report states. "It is certainly feasible, but will likely require a fairly significant change in policy in the very near future and/or extremely favorable market and technological conditions", researchers concluded. Power demand increased as the economy grew and utilities burned more natural gas to meet it, outpacing more than 14 GW of expected coal capacity closures in the year. "Some of this was due to unusually cold weather at the start of the year".

However economic activity is the key reason for the overall rise in Carbon dioxide emissions. There are fewer trucks and planes shipping goods and people.

The nation's industrial sectors saw emissions increase by 5.7 percent. Trump also campaigned on a promise to restore the coal industry.


Despite this, there is little to cheer in the USA data for those concerned with climate change on a global scale.

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

The last time emissions increased this much was in 2010 when the country was recovering from the Great Recession. The big drivers were increases in electricity demand, which burns natural gas and coal, and big growth in trucking and aviation.

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 United States environmental agencies.

Coal plants are shutting down, but electricity demand is growing.

Official figures of total greenhouse gas emissions will not be published until 2020 by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Media captionNo more beef? They said new government rules would "give consumers greater access to safer, more affordable vehicles, while continuing to protect the environment".

"As carbon emissions continue to climb, it is more important than ever that we do everything we can to support low-carbon fuels like biodiesel", Don Scott, sustainability director for the National Biodiesel Board, told Biodiesel Magazine.

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 American Petroleum Institute, the top lobbying organisation for the USA oil and gas industry, says it does not take a position on forming a carbon tax. Industrial emissions from factories and other major facilities also rose significantly in 2018, the analysis found.

"Most of the increase a year ago was directly attributable to an increase in economic growth", said Trevor Houser, who leads Rhodium Group's Energy and Climate team, but he added that "it does not have to be the case that a rising economy results in rising emissions". "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".

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