Good news sometimes leads to bad news: Courageous efforts to reduce carbon emissions are shadowed by U.S. economic growth that consumes more energy.
After three years of decline, US carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions rose sharply last year. According to Rodium group’s estimate, A US-based research firm, emissions increased by 3.4% in 2018.
A 20-year record high
This marks the second largest annual gain in more than two decades — surpassed only by 2010 when the economy bounced back from the Great Recession.
While a record number of coal-fired power plants were retired last year, natural gas not only beat out renewables to replace most of this lost generation but also fed most of the growth in electricity demand.
According to the New York Times, Demand for electricity surged last year, too, as the economy grew, and renewable power did not expand fast enough to meet the extra demand. As a result, natural gas filled in the gap, and emissions from electricity rose an estimated 1.9 percent.
The transportation sector
As a result, power sector emissions overall rose by 1.9%. The transportation sector held its title as the largest source of US emissions for the third year running, as robust growth in demand for diesel and jet fuel offset a modest decline in gasoline consumption.
The largest emissions growth in 2018 occurred in the two sectors most often ignored in clean energy and climate policymaking: buildings and industry.
Direct 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. Part of this was due to a colder winter
Meeting the Paris Agreement Target
To meet the Paris Agreement target of a 26-28% reduction from 2005 levels by 2025, the US will need to reduce energy-related CO2 emissions by 2.6% on average over the next seven years — and faster if declines in other gasses do not keep pace. That’s more than twice the pace the US achieved between 2005 and 2017 and significantly faster than any seven-year average in US history.