U.S. Carbon-Dioxide Emissions Fell 11 Percent Since 2007

The recession played a part, but so did a change in the way Americans use energy.

National Journal
Brian Resnick
Add to Briefcase
Brian Resnick
Oct. 11, 2013, 5:41 a.m.

Emis­sions fig­ures are in mil­lion tons of car­bon; for tons of CO2, mul­tiply by 44/12. Source: Com­piled by Earth Policy In­sti­tute with 1950-1993 from “Car­bon Di­ox­ide Emis­sions from En­ergy Con­sump­tion by Source, 1949-2011,” Table 11.1 in U.S. (Bri­an Mc­Gill)Between 2007 and 2011, the amount of car­bon di­ox­ide the United States spewed in­to the air de­creased by 2 mil­lion tons, or 11 per­cent. Ac­count­ing for part of the de­crease, ex­plains the Earth Policy In­sti­tute, is the re­ces­sion. When the eco­nomy slows, car­bon emis­sions slow with it. But our habits have changed as well, and in the past few years Amer­ica really has got­ten “green­er.”

Cars have be­come more ef­fi­cient, and emis­sions from oil are down about 100 mil­lion tons since the middle of the last dec­ade. We’re also driv­ing less — na­tion­al miles driv­en peaked in 2007. Now, the Earth Policy In­sti­tute ex­plains, “more cars stay parked be­cause more people live in urb­an areas, opt for pub­lic trans­it, work re­motely, or re­tire and thus no longer com­mute to work.” Factor in the de­cline of coal power, and the small but sig­ni­fic­ant rise of wind en­ergy, and the U.S. is 11 per­cent green­er than it was just a few years ago. 

And this happened, more or less, without a con­cer­ted fed­er­al ef­fort. “U.S. car­bon emis­sions have de­clined at an im­press­ive rate giv­en the ab­sence of any co­hes­ive fed­er­al cli­mate-change policy,” the Yale For­um on Cli­mate Change ex­plains. “The U.S. has ac­tu­ally man­aged to make sig­ni­fic­ant pro­gress to­ward its long-aban­doned Kyoto Pro­tocol tar­get to re­duce emis­sions 7 per­cent be­low 1990 levels.”

Gran­ted, even though the levels have dropped, car­bon di­ox­ide con­tin­ues to ac­cu­mu­late in the at­mo­sphere. There is cer­tainly more CO2 in the air today than there was in 2007 (and while the U.S. is a ma­jor source of green­house gas emis­sions — about 16 per­cent — it cer­tainly isn’t the only one).

But this is a prom­ising trend con­sid­er­ing re­cent re­search from the journ­al Nature that pre­dicts when cli­mate change will have fun­da­ment­ally altered loc­al cli­mates. The study spells out two di­ver­ging scen­ari­os for Earth. One is busi­ness as usu­al, in which cit­ies like Wash­ing­ton and New York will have a rad­ic­ally altered cli­mate (di­ver­ging from long-his­tor­ic­al norms) by 2047. But if we sig­ni­fic­antly re­duce the amount of car­bon emis­sions, that date could stretch to 2072.

The de­veloped na­tions of the world will have to lead the way, the re­port con­cludes, as the first coun­tries to feel the im­pacts of cli­mate change will be poorer na­tions in trop­ic­al cli­mates. The au­thors write:

… any pro­gress to de­crease the rate of on­go­ing cli­mate change will re­quire a big­ger com­mit­ment from de­veloped coun­tries to de­crease their emis­sions but will also re­quire more ex­tens­ive fund­ing of so­cial and con­ser­va­tion pro­grams in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries to min­im­ize the im­pacts of cli­mate change. Our res­ults on the pro­jec­ted tim­ing of cli­mate de­par­ture from re­cent vari­ab­il­ity shed light on the ur­gency of mit­ig­at­ing green­house-gas emis­sions if wide­spread changes in glob­al biod­iversity and hu­man so­ci­et­ies are to be pre­ven­ted.

MOST READ
What We're Following See More »
TWO MONTHS AFTER REFUSING AT CONVENTION
Cruz to Back Trump
1 days ago
THE LATEST
WHO TO BELIEVE?
Two Polls for Clinton, One for Trump
1 days ago
THE LATEST

With three days until the first debate, the polls are coming fast and furious. The latest round:

  • An Associated Press/Gfk poll of registered voters found very few voters committed, with Clin­ton lead­ing Trump, 37% to 29%, and Gary John­son at 7%.
  • A Mc­Clatchy-Mar­ist poll gave Clin­ton a six-point edge, 45% to 39%, in a four-way bal­lot test. Johnson pulls 10% support, with Jill Stein at 4%.
  • Rasmussen, which has drawn criticism for continually showing Donald Trump doing much better than he does in other polls, is at it again. A new survey gives Trump a five-point lead, 44%-39%.
NO SURPRISE
Trump Eschewing Briefing Materials in Debate Prep
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

In contrast to Hillary Clinton's meticulous debate practice sessions, Donald Trump "is largely shun­ning tra­di­tion­al de­bate pre­par­a­tions, but has been watch­ing video of…Clin­ton’s best and worst de­bate mo­ments, look­ing for her vul­ner­ab­il­it­ies.” Trump “has paid only curs­ory at­ten­tion to brief­ing ma­ter­i­als. He has re­fused to use lecterns in mock de­bate ses­sions des­pite the ur­ging of his ad­visers. He prefers spit­balling ideas with his team rather than hon­ing them in­to crisp, two-minute an­swers.”

Source:
TRUMP NO HABLA ESPANOL
Trump Makes No Outreach to Spanish Speakers
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Donald Trump "is on the precipice of becoming the only major-party presidential candidate this century not to reach out to millions of American voters whose dominant, first or just preferred language is Spanish. Trump has not only failed to buy any Spanish-language television or radio ads, he so far has avoided even offering a translation of his website into Spanish, breaking with two decades of bipartisan tradition."

Source:
$1.16 MILLION
Clintons Buy the House Next Door in Chappaqua
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Bill and Hillary Clinton have purchased the home next door to their primary residence in tony Chappaqua, New York, for $1.16 million. "By purchasing the new home, the Clinton's now own the entire cul-de-sac at the end of the road in the leafy New York suburb. The purchase makes it easier for the United States Secret Service to protect the former president and possible future commander in chief."

Source:
×