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

Boulder Is The Latest City to Bring Exxon to Court

Boulder Is The Latest City to Bring Exxon to Court


by Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer Colorado, like many Western states, is facing down another year of record-breaking wildfires. Colorado’s Boulder County estimates that over the next 30 years, it will cost $100 million to update transport and drainage systems to reduce wildfire risk. But the county doesn’t want to put its residents on the […]

Continue Reading 453 words
New Study Finds 5% of World’s Power Plants Cause 73% of Power Sector’s Emissions

New Study Finds 5% of World’s Power Plants Cause 73% of Power Sector’s Emissions

by Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer A new study has found a mere 5% of the world’s power plants are responsible for 73% of emissions released from energy generation.  A group of researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder analyzed 2018 data from 29,000 fossil fuel power plants in 221 countries and found the […]

Continue Reading 397 words
EU Climate Policy: Fuel Up, Fuel Down

EU Climate Policy: Fuel Up, Fuel Down

By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer One of the big headlines out of the European Union’s recently released package of concrete policies to hit climate neutrality was the phase out of diesel and petrol fueled cars by 2035. The proposal plans for charging stations every 60km (about every 37 miles), a massive ramp up in […]

Continue Reading 418 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.