February 6, 2023

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US carbon emissions increased in 2022, even as renewables overtake coal

America’s greenhouse gas emissions from energy and industry rose last year, moving the nation in the opposite direction to its climate goals, according to preliminary estimates. Posted Tuesday by Rhodium GroupIt is a nonpartisan research firm.

Emissions rose 1.3 percent even as renewable energy surpassed coal nationwide for the first time in more than six decades, with wind, solar and hydro generating 22 percent of the country’s electricity compared to 20 percent from coal. Growth in natural gas power generation has also offset the decline in coal.

Ben King, associate director at the Rhodium Group and author of the report, said the new estimate puts nationwide emissions back on track over the long term after nearly two years of Covid-related disruptions.

“We’re basically on the same trajectory that we’ve been on since the mid-2000s,” he said, describing it as a “protracted structural decline,” but “it’s not happening fast enough.”

Two years ago, President Biden promised to pick up the pace, select the target To reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, an amount believed to be consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5 °C (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. After this threshold, scientists say the risk of a climate catastrophe, including life-threatening heat waves and food and water scarcity, increases dramatically. The planet has already warmed 1.1°C over the past century.

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But Rhodium Group’s analysis suggests the country is not on track to achieve Mr. Biden’s goal:

It was recently passed Inflation Reduction Acta landmark, tax and climate law, that should help bend the emissions curve closer to the 2030 target, but even that is You will likely fall short.

The emissions estimate reflects a continued rebound from pandemic lows in 2020. The initial outbreak of the coronavirus led to widespread shutdowns and reduced US energy use to its lowest level in decades. with lower emissions more than 10 percent. They rebounded by 6.2 percent in 2021 as the economy began to recover, but continued supply chain disruptions and new coronavirus variants limited the recovery. The smaller rise in emissions in 2022 came amid Russia’s war in Ukraine, the resulting global energy crisis, and soaring inflation.

Emissions from electric power generation decreased as renewable energy and natural gas replaced coal, which saw a small and short-lived increase in 2021 due to higher natural gas prices. Natural gas is less carbon-intensive than coal, but burning it produces a lot of methane, which is a particularly potent greenhouse gas.

a Modern report From the International Energy Agency that renewables are on track to overtake coal as the largest source of electricity generation worldwide by early 2025, as countries respond to fossil fuel supply disruptions related to the war in Ukraine by enacting stronger policies to transition away from carbon-emitting oil, gas and coal. .

However, the United States made little progress last year in any of the sectors with the highest emissions, transportation and industry, which together account for nearly two-thirds of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Industrial emissions rose 1.5 percent, and transportation emissions increased 1.3 percent, primarily driven by jet fuel demand as air travel continues to recover from pandemic-era declines.

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Some experts hope that provisions in the Reducing Inflation Act could provide money to help The speed of carbon removal in industrial facilities and reduce fossil fuel emissions from heavy industries, incl Cement and steel Produce. The legislation also expanded consumer tax credits for electric vehicles, which typically create lower emissions than gasoline-powered cars.

The biggest increase in emissions last year came from homes and buildings that burn fossil fuels like natural gas in furnaces, water heaters and other appliances. Those emissions rose 6 percent, reaching pre-pandemic levels. Colder-than-average temperatures early in the year have prompted many Americans to increase their home energy use by turning up the temperature.

Estimates from the Rhodium Group do not include emissions from agriculture or from wildfires, which Release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere They also burn forests and grasslands. Agriculture is a major contributor to climate change, with agricultural activities accounting for 11.2 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States in 2020, according to Estimates from the US Department of Agriculture.

The report does contain some good news: Last year, the country’s economic growth, measured in gross domestic product, outpaced emissions growth, suggesting the economy was less carbon-intensive, King said. “Decoupling” economic growth from fossil fuel consumption is critical in charting an economically sustainable path toward decarbonisation.

“We’ve seen the challenges that occur when declines in emissions are associated with declines in GDP,” he said. “Look at 2020.”