Greenhouse gas emissions increasing again for the first time in nearly a decade

Toxic carbon dioxide emissions (that are an important contributor to global warming)  increased by 3.4% in 2018 after three years of declines, according to a new report based on government statistics released today, demonstrating that the U.S. is headed in the wrong direction on cleaning up air pollution and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  This increase reverses an overall trend of declining air pollution — since 2007 carbon dioxide emissions had decreased an average of 1.6% annually and more than 12% overall.  Last year’s rise was the second largest increase since 1996, behind a 3.6% increase that took place in 2010, when emissions precipitously rose after a 7.2% decline in 2009 that was the result of the great recession.

Last year’s increases occurred despite the closing of many old, coal-fired power plants, because of dramatic increases in power, industrial and transportation emissions.  According to the report:

  • US power sector emissions rose by 34 million metric tons in 2018, compared to a decline of 78 million metric tons in 2017 and a 61 million metric ton average annual decline between 2005 and 2016
  • U.S. transportation emissions grew by 1% in 2018, roughly the same as the 2017 growth rate
  • U.S. emissions from residential and commercial buildings (from sources such as fuel oil, diesel and natural gas combusted on site for heating and cooking) increased by 10% in 2018 to their highest level since 2004 … as compared to a colder winter than we had in 2017

The authors of the report concluded that in order to meet the our obligations under the Paris Agreement the U.S. would need to decrease emissions at 2.6% on average over the next seven years, which is twice the pace the US achieved between 2005 and 2017 and significantly faster than any similar time period before.

Why This Matters:  The Washington Post reported that the study’s authors concluded that we are now experiencing the impacts of the Trump Administration’s regulatory rollbacks of the clean power plan, the clean car rule, and dozens of other rules designed to protect health and reduce air emissions that cause global warming.  And recall that these impacts are not harmless — according to a study by Harvard scientists that was published last summer in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Trump administration‘s changes to air pollution policies will result in an extra 80,000 deaths per decade.  And we no longer are leading the world on battling climate change, despite the best efforts of states, cities, corporations and individuals.  This should give greater impetus to the Green New Deal proposals likely to emerge from the Democratically-controlled House of Representatives.  

Up Next

US Green Diplomat Previews Glasgow

US Green Diplomat Previews Glasgow

By WW0 Staff For the United States, the post-Trump, pre-COP26 road to Glasgow has been paved with ambition and humility. In a major speech, the President’s Envoy, John Kerry, previewed the results of his climate diplomacy before heading into two weeks of intense deliberations of world leaders. Speaking at the London School of Economics — […]

Continue Reading 421 words
One Cool Thing: COP26 Coverage Kickoff

One Cool Thing: COP26 Coverage Kickoff

Next week, the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow will draw hundreds of world leaders to Glasgow to determine the path forward five years after the Paris Climate Agreement (for a primer, read this) as new science underscores the urgency. The conference aims to squeeze countries to strengthen the commitments they’ve made towards securing global net-zero […]

Continue Reading 194 words
DOD Says Climate Change Increases National Security Risks

DOD Says Climate Change Increases National Security Risks

By Amy Lupica, ODP Daily Editor In a report released last week, the Department of Defense (DOD) confirmed that existing risks and security challenges in the US are being made worse due to “increasing temperatures; changing precipitation patterns; and more frequent, intense, and unpredictable extreme weather conditions caused by climate change. Now, the Pentagon is […]

Continue Reading 440 words

Want the planet in your inbox?

Subscribe to the email that top lawmakers, renowned scientists, and thousands of concerned citizens turn to each morning for the latest environmental news and analysis.