Wednesday, April 20, 2016

U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Climbed for the Second Straight Year

This undated handout image provided by NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Michigan, shows The Four Corners area, in red, left, is the major U.S. hot spot for methane emissions showing how much emissions varied from average background concentrations from 2003-2009 (dark colors are lower than average; lighter colors are higher). (Credit: AP Photo/Nasa, Jpl-Caltech, University Of Michigan) Click to Enlarge.
Over the last decade, the United States embraced energy efficiency and higher fuel economy standards, causing almost double-digit declines in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.  But since the last drop in 2012, that trend has gone in the opposite direction for the second time in a row, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s annual Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report, which tracks emissions across the entire country.

In 2014, the newest year for which data is available, emissions grew a percentage point from 2013, according to the report released Friday.  Emissions climbed due to increasing fuel demand for residential and commercial sector heating, as well as a growing use of fuel for vehicles. Industrial production also increased across various sectors, causing some slight growth in industrial sector emissions.  The fact that emissions increased in 2014 is particularly concerning since the report also updated 2013 figures showing that the U.S. emitted more than it had originally reported.

This is also significant for the national and international arena because inventories like these are the prime tools countries use to monitor their emissions individually and globally.  What’s more, this new data comes a week before hundreds of leaders officially sign the Paris agreement that calls on nations to reduce emissions to prevent further global warming.

Environmentalists said this EPA report is a mixed collection of some good news topped by major revisions to past calculations, which point to improving reporting but a worrisome trend in the country’s greenhouse gas emissions now causing climate change.  “What we know is that the United States’ emissions are higher than they have been documented, and we also know that this just adds to the true narrative, which is that there is an incredible urgency for the United States to rapidly decrease its emissions,” said Evan Weber, executive director of U.S. Climate Plan, in an interview with ThinkProgress.

While the report shows U.S. emissions peaked in 2007, the country’s greenhouse gas pollution has increased 7.4 percent since 1990.  What’s more, based on updated 2013 figures, methane emissions largely from the oil and gas industry were greater than first reported that year, according to the report.  Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas which traps heat 86 times as effectively as carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.  In 2013 methane discharges from oil and gas were 34 percent higher than previously thought.  Methane sources include agriculture practices, landfills, coal mining, and wastewater treatment.  Yet the oil and gas sector is the largest of them all, accounting for a third of methane emissions.

Read more at U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Climbed for the Second Straight Year

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