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US saw the largest increase in CO2 emissions in almost a decade

A cold winter and a lack of clean energy policies didn't help.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
January 9, 2019
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AP Photo/J. David Ake

The US isn't faring well in efforts to keep carbon dioxide emissions in check. Rhodium Group analysts have determined that CO2 emissions jumped 3.4 percent year-over-year in 2018, or the largest increase since 2010. The reasons for the worsening output aren't necessarily what you expect, though. The research team attributed it both to a cold winter (thus increasing the use of oil and gas for heat) and, more importantly, a then-booming economy. The growth led to greater uses of factories, aircraft and trucks that frequently aren't subject to strict environmental policies, leading to sharp upticks in emissions. Industry alone saw emissions climb by 5.7 percent.

The economic situation also contributed to increased electricity use. And without enough renewable energy to keep up with demand, the country leaned more on natural gas. The shift increased overall electricity-related emissions by 1.9 percent, even as coal use fell sharply.

There are bright spots in this otherwise gloomy data. Fossil fuels emissions are still considerably lower than they were at their 2005 peak, and gas use fell by 0.1 percent versus 2017 despite people driving more miles. Hybrids, electric cars and more efficient conventional cars are making a difference, then.

Still, this indicates that the US' CO2 output is both linked too closely to its economic success and that there aren't enough efforts to curb industrial emissions. Moreover, it's increasingly clear that current American policies aren't good enough to resist the effects of climate change. And when the existing US administration opposes attempts to fight climate change, you might not see improvement on that front for a while.

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