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

Nature-Based Climate Solutions Like #30×30 Gaining Traction With New COP Leaders

Nature-Based Climate Solutions Like #30×30 Gaining Traction With New COP Leaders

Yesterday was #HumanRightsDay and the importance of access to and conserving nature as a basic human right was emphasized repeatedly at the UN Climate Meeting in Madrid — sustaining biodiversity is increasingly recognized for its benefits to addressing the climate emergency. And as developing countries are stepping up to fill the leadership void at the Climate Meeting, their leaders are looking for multifaceted climate solutions that conserve biodiversity and provide for sustainable use of natural resources.

Why This Matters:  It is just this simple — without biodiversity, life on Earth for humans is not possible.  But if we started by protecting or restoring 30 percent of the planet by 2030 for nature itself, that would provide huge carbon capture as well as biodiversity benefits.  

Continue Reading 582 words
U.S. NGOs, Companies and States Moving Forward at UN Meeting, But Feds Are MIA

U.S. NGOs, Companies and States Moving Forward at UN Meeting, But Feds Are MIA

The U.S. government is visibly absent here in Madrid — it does not have a meeting pavilion to showcase the nation’s efforts and to give its government participants a place to convene other governments and stakeholders to show what is happening in the U.S. on climate change.  But the U.S. is still well-represented at the UN Climate Meeting by an army of environmental groups, state and local governments, corporations, and philanthropists.

Why This Matters:  U.S. Stakeholders are putting up a brave front and have not taken their foot off the gas (bad pun) — and, in fact, are working to increase the actionable commitments by U.S. stakeholders.  But being “in” simply is not enough for the U.S., which had led the prior COPs and is the second-largest emitter. 

Continue Reading 547 words
A Flood of Coverage of Flooding in the U.S.

A Flood of Coverage of Flooding in the U.S.


In the past week, there has been a deluge of stories in various newspapers about how cities and rural areas are dealing with flooding related to climate change-linked sea-level rise or extreme rain events or both.  Two clear storylines emerge:  some places such as areas in the Florida Keys or even the precious relics of […]

Continue Reading 570 words