Friday, April 17, 2015

U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Spiked 2 Percent in 2013

Total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions since 1990 (Credit: EPA) Click to Enlarge.
After two years of decline, total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere because of human activity increased 2 percent in 2013 over the previous year.  That surge was fueled, in large part, because of a growing economy, falling coal prices and a cold winter, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday in its annual greenhouse gas emissions inventory.

Emissions across nearly all sectors grew in 2013, with increased GHG emissions from electricity generation, more vehicle miles traveled on the nation’s roadways and greater industrial production, according to the EPA.

The news of the increase in U.S. human-caused GHG emissions comes at a critical moment in the global battle against climate change, particularly after the International Energy Agency announced last month that global carbon emissions related to energy consumption have stabilized for the first time in a growing economy.

Ahead of international climate negotiations in Paris at the end of this year, the Obama administration announced a plan to slash greenhouse gas emissions each year by 26 percent by 2025, compared to 2005 levels.  The EPA’s Clean Power Plan may also bring about CO2 cuts if it is finalized later this year.

Last year, electric power plants accounted for 31 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions, followed by transportation at 27 percent and industrial and manufacturing activity at 21 percent.

U.S. greenhouse gas emissions peaked in 2007.  That year the U.S. released 7.40 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), a measure of the global warming potential of any greenhouse gas in terms of the amount of warming generated by CO2.  The U.S. released 6.67 billion metric tons of CO2e in 2013, up from 6.54 billion tons in 2012.

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