US greenhouse gas emissions rebound sharply in 2021 (released 2022) (2023)


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Emissions rose 6% last year after falling a record 10% in 2020 as the U.S. economy recovers from the pandemic and coal-fired power and trucking grow.

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US greenhouse gas emissions rebound sharply in 2021 (released 2022) (1)

go throughBrad Plummer

WASHINGTON - U.S. energy and industrial greenhouse gas emissions rose 6.2% in 2021 as the economy began to recover from pandemic-induced lows and U.S. coal-fired power plants returned to operation, preliminary reports showed.Estimates released on MondayOd Rhodium Group.

The comeback was not entirely surprising: emissions in the country fellDown more than 10% in 2020It was the biggest one-year drop on record after the initial coronavirus outbreak triggered widespread lockdowns and energy consumption fell to its lowest level in decades. Emissions are expected to recover as restrictions ease and economic activity strengthens.

Kate Larsen, partner at research and consulting firm Rhodium Group, said: "If anything, emissions rebounded less than they should have last year because the pandemic is still ongoing. Disruption has been caused and the economy has yet to return to normal. ". "Emissions remain well below 2019 levels."

The rise in emissions underscores the challenge President Biden faces as he seeks to wean the country off oil, natural gas and coal and help prevent a sharp rise in global temperatures.

Mr. Biden has set a goal of cutting national greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels, about the pace scientists say the world must follow to prevent the planet from warming more than 1.5 percent. degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels and minimized the risk of catastrophic impacts. During the last century, the Earth warmed by 1.1 degrees Celsius.

But the Rhodium Group estimates that US emissions are now just 17.4% below 2005 levels after recovering last year.Some recent studyThe study found that without significant new policies to accelerate the transition to wind, solar and other clean energy sources, the US is unlikely to meet Mr. Biden's climate goals.

Can Mr. Biden enact these policies?is a big problem: His Build Back Better Act — which includes $555 billion in spending and tax breaks for renewable energy, electric vehicles and other climate projects — is still up in the air on Capitol Hill. Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a key voice for Democrats, has so far been reluctant to support the bill, though Democrats are expected to try again this year. Republicans were unanimous in their opposition to the bill.

A recent analysis by Princeton University researchers found that the bill, if passed in its current form, could make the U.S.It has largely met its climate goals, doubling or quadrupling the rate of wind and solar power installations, accelerating sales of electric vehicles and encouraging utilities to retire more coal plants over the next decade.

For now, however, the US still relies heavily on fossil fuels to power its economy.

The Rhodium Group estimates that emissions from transportation, the largest source of greenhouse gases in the United States, will rise 10% in 2021 after falling 15% in 2020. The recovery has been fueled by an increase in the number of diesel trucks delivering goods to consumers as e-commerce booms , and shipments rose above pre-pandemic levels last year.

Travel by car and plane is slower to recover as uncertainty about the new options disrupts travel plans and keeps many people at home. Gasoline consumption did not return to 2019 levels until October, while demand for jet fuel remained well below pre-pandemic levels.

There are some signs that vehicles on the road are starting to change: Sales of electric vehicles, a key technology for reducing emissions, will rise to record levels in 2021, counting5% of new car sales in the third quarterAccording to research firm Atlas Public Policy. But electric vehicles are not widespread enough to drastically reduce emissions, and so far only a few trucks have been electrified.

Coal, the most polluting of all fossil fuels, also made a big comeback last year, with emissions from coal-fired power plants set to rise 17% in 2021 after falling 19% in 2020. A decade ago, the fuel was far from dead .

In the years leading up to the pandemic, AEP retired hundreds of coal-fired power plants and replaced them with cheaper and cleaner natural gas, wind and solar power. Then in 2020, electricity consumption fell across the country, as did many utilitiesThe remaining coal-fired power plants operate much less frequently, because it is usually the most expensive fuel.

But last year, that reversed: With natural gas prices nearly doubling in 2021 due to a cold winter and increasing exports, many utilities returned more often to coal-fired plants. (On average, burning coal for electricity produces twice as much carbon dioxide as burning natural gas, although natural gas use also produces large amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.)

"It really shows how dependent we are on cheap gas prices to keep coal prices low," Ms Larsen said. "Overall, we still expect further declines in coal over the next few years, but unless new policies are introduced to clean up the energy sector, otherwise the coal sector could see a small lifeline if there is much volatility in the gas market."


Arecent reportCoal emissions could fall again next year if natural gas prices stabilize, the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts. Electric companies have announced plans for decommissioningAt least 28% of remaining coal-fired power plantsBy 2035, the agency said. Power companies have installed new wind turbines and solar panels at a record pace over the past two years.

Still, meeting Biden's climate goals will be a daunting task: Rhodium estimates that the U.S. would need to cut emissions by about 5% a year between now and 2030, more than the country. The pace of actual implementation is much faster than before the pandemic. Last month, the solar industryto warnNew installations are likely to slow in 2022 due to supply chain constraints and rising material costs.

Rhodium also noted that the US has made little progress in reducing emissions in two key sectors, industry and construction.

Emissions from heavy industries such as cement and steel rose 3.6% in 2021 after falling 6.2% in 2020. Such factories account for about one-fifth of national emissions,It turns out that it is difficult to clean without new technology, industrial emissions have remained roughly the same since 2005.

Homes and buildings also directly generate emissions by burning fossil fuels such as natural gas in furnaces, water heaters, stoves, ovens and clothes dryers. Emissions from buildings will increase by 1.9% in 2021 after falling by 7.6% in 2020.

The Rhodium report only focuses on emissions from energy and industrial sources, not sectors such as agriculture. It also does not take into account the increase in emissionsJudging by last year's forest firesIn California, Colorado and the Pacific Northwest, millions of acres of forests and grasslands burned, sending the carbon dioxide stored in all those trees into the atmosphere.

The EU Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring service uses satellite dataexpected in DecemberForest fires in North America released 83 million tons of carbon dioxide last year. While burned forests may eventually regrow and absorb carbon dioxide, the process will take years. Scientists warn that forest fires will become bigger and more frequent as the planet warms.

The US wasn't the only country where fossil fuel use rebounded sharply last year. In November, researchers from the Global Carbon ProjectestimatedGlobal energy and industrial CO2 emissions rose 4.9% in 2021 after falling 5.4% in 2020. China, India and the European Union saw large increases, suggesting the climate impact of the outbreak is short-lived.

Brad Plumer is a climate journalist who specializes in policy and technical work on reducing carbon dioxide emissions. At The Times, he also covers international climate negotiations and the changing energy landscape in the United States. @Brad Plummer

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US greenhouse gas emissions rebound sharply in 2021 (released 2022)? ›

Emissions increased in 2021 by 6 percent (after accounting for sequestration from the land sector). The increase in total greenhouse gas emissions was driven largely by an increase in CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion.

How much did U.S. greenhouse gas emissions rise in 2021? ›

Emissions increased in 2021 by 6 percent (after accounting for sequestration from the land sector). The increase in total greenhouse gas emissions was driven largely by an increase in CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion.

Are U.S. greenhouse gas emissions increasing? ›

“The observations collected by NOAA scientists in 2022 show that greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at an alarming pace and will persist in the atmosphere for thousands of years,” said Rick Spinrad, Ph. D., NOAA administrator.

How much CO2 was released in 2021? ›

In 2021, global anthropogenic fossil CO2 emissions rebounded and by 5.3% in comparison of 2020, totalling 37.9 Gt CO2, just 0.36% below 2019 levels. China, the United States, the EU27, India, Russia and Japan remained the world's largest CO2 emitters.

What are the greenhouse gas emissions for 2021? ›

Total global emissions increased 4.6% in 2021 based on preliminary estimates. In 2021, as countries and economies began to reopen and recover from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, global GHG emissions bounced back, but not quite all the way to pre-pandemic levels.

How much does the US contribute to climate change 2021? ›

By the end of 2021, the US will have emitted more than 509GtCO2 since 1850. At 20.3% of the global total, this is by far the largest share and is associated with some 0.2C of warming to date.

What is the largest contributor to GHG emissions in the US? ›

The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities in the United States is from burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation.

Is the US the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases? ›

The US is the world's second largest emitter of greenhouse gases. It produces and consumes more oil and natural gas than any other country.

Have US emissions increased? ›

U.S. greenhouse gas emissions grew by 1.3 percent in 2022, according to a report released Tuesday by the Rhodium Group.

What is the trend in US GHG emissions? ›

The models indicate that under baseline conditions (i.e., without IRA), U.S. GHG emissions would decrease by 24% to 35% by 2030 compared with 2005 levels. The models estimate that with the addition of IRA, U.S. GHG emissions would decrease by 30% to 43% by 2030 compared with 2005 levels.

What is the biggest contributor to climate change 2021? ›

In 2021, greenhouse gas emissions from transportation accounted for 28% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, making it the largest contributor of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. From 1990 to 2021, total transportation emissions from fossil fuel combustion increased by 19%.

How much CO2 does the US release? ›

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that in 2022, U.S. motor gasoline and diesel (distillate) fuel consumption in the U.S. transportation sector resulted in the emission of about 1,019 million metric tons (MMmt) of carbon dioxide (CO2) and 457 MMmt of CO2, respectively, for a total of about 1,476 ...

Why have US emissions decreased? ›

This reversal in 2022 was primarily driven by a drop in emissions from the electric power sector, mostly due to the displacement of coal by natural gas and an increase in renewable energy (Figure 2). Outside of the power sector, emissions increased slightly.

What are the 3 main causes of global warming? ›

Burning fossil fuels, cutting down forests and farming livestock are increasingly influencing the climate and the earth's temperature.

Which country is the largest GHG emitters 2021? ›

China and the United States are the largest polluters in the world by far, having released 11.5 and 5.0 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2021, respectively.

What is the biggest contributor to global warming? ›

Fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – are by far the largest contributor to global climate change, accounting for over 75 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 90 per cent of all carbon dioxide emissions. As greenhouse gas emissions blanket the Earth, they trap the sun's heat.

What has Biden done to reduce climate change? ›

President Biden has set an ambitious U.S. goal of achieving a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035 and net zero emissions economy by no later than 2050.

Does the U.S. contribute the most to global warming? ›

Because fossil fuels are widely used and traded globally, reducing U.S. domestic supply is unlikely to have much effect on global GHG emissions. However, the United States is the world's second largest GHG emitter and 77% of U.S. GHG emissions come from fossil fuel combustion.

What are the top 3 sources of greenhouse gases in the US? ›

In the United States, most of the emissions of human-caused (anthropogenic) greenhouse gases (GHG) come primarily from burning fossil fuels—coal, natural gas, and petroleum—for energy use.

What percent of US emissions are from cars? ›

​Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transportation account for about 29 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, making it the largest contributor of U.S. GHG emissions.

Which country has the highest greenhouse gas emissions per capita? ›

But among the top 10 highest emitters, the U.S. and Russia have the highest per capita emissions, at 17.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tC02e) per person and 13.3 tC02e per person respectively, while India's per capita emissions are the lowest at just 2.5 tCO2e per person.

Which US city has the lowest carbon footprint? ›

But Texas blew other states away for lowest carbon footprint per capita, landing Houston at the top of the list compiled by travel blog Park Sleep Fly.

What percentage of global warming is the US responsible for? ›

United States Efforts

The United States accounts for only about five percent of global population, but is responsible for 30 percent of global energy use and 28 percent of carbon emissions.

Who is the biggest carbon polluter in history? ›

The industrial revolution began around 1750 in the United Kingdom, which emitted 3.7 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere over the next 100 years. That's just 5% of CO2 the country has polluted over time. United States took the top spot in terms of cumulative emissions.

What year will United States emissions peak? ›

The inflection point for fossil fuel carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions is nigh, with emissions on track to peak by 2025, according to Rystad Energy research and analysis.

What year did US emissions peak? ›

Since reaching peak CO2 emissions in 2007, U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions from coal have declined, on average, by 5% each year.

Which two greenhouse gases are increasing at an alarming rate? ›

Atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide – the greenhouse gases emitted by human activity that are the most significant contributors to global heating – continued to increase rapidly during 2022, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa).

What percentage of pollution is caused by the US? ›

The United States has historically contributed 27 percent of all emissions, and according to the estimates by Bamber and Mitrovica, it will get almost exactly as much extra sea level rise (as a percentage). What will never be equitable, though, is this: The U.S. is a rich country.

What is the state of climate change in 2023? ›

Published. Geneva, 17 May 2023 (WMO) – Global temperatures are likely to surge to record levels in the next five years, fuelled by heat-trapping greenhouse gases and a naturally occurring El Niño event, according to a new update issued by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Is global warming going to get better? ›

Is climate change getting better or worse? If greenhouse gas emissions are increasing — which they are, according to NPR — then technically, climate change is getting worse.

Where is the biggest climate change in the world? ›

Chad ranks as the world's most climate-vulnerable country on the Notre Dame-Global Adaptation Initiative Index, which examines a country's exposure, sensitivity and capacity to adapt to the negative effects of climate change.

Is there a CO2 shortage in the US? ›

The shortage in carbon dioxide in the US is due to multiple carbon dioxide suppliers suffering from gas contamination. For example, Denbury found out that their Jackson Dome Carbon Dioxide plant in Mississippi was contaminated with gas from an extinct volcano!

Which country has released the most carbon dioxide? ›

Three countries account for the lion's share of global carbon dioxide emissions. In 2022, China was highest, at 32%, though that has begun to fall slightly. The United States was next with 14%, an increase of 1.5% over 2021. India's emissions continue to rise and now make up 8% of the global total.

How much does the US pollute compared to other countries? ›

China is now responsible for more than 27% of total global emissions. The U.S., which is the world's second-highest emitter, accounts for 11% of the global total. India is responsible for 6.6% of global emissions, edging out the 27 nations in the EU, which account for 6.4%, the report said.

What U.S. state has the lowest emissions? ›

The state with the highest total carbon dioxide emissions is Texas and the lowest is Vermont. The state with the highest per capita carbon dioxide emissions is Wyoming and the lowest is New York.

Will the U.S. reach net zero emissions? ›

The U.S. Government is now joined by 18 national governments committed to attaining net-zero government emissions by 2050. Through this Initiative, national governments will work together to steadily curb emissions in ways that meet the urgency of the climate crisis.”

Does the U.S. have a net-zero target? ›

Target year – The US government commits to reach net zero emissions by 2050 latest (U.S. Department of State, 2021b).

Is the sun not co2 to blame for global warming? ›

No. The Sun can influence Earth's climate, but it isn't responsible for the warming trend we've seen over recent decades. The Sun is a giver of life; it helps keep the planet warm enough for us to survive.

What are 5 ways to stop global warming? ›

10 Ways to Stop Global Warming
  • Change a light. Replacing one regular light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb will save 150 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.
  • Drive less. ...
  • Recycle more. ...
  • Check your tires. ...
  • Use less hot water. ...
  • Avoid products with a lot of packaging. ...
  • Adjust your thermostat. ...
  • Plant a tree.

What human activity causes the most harm to the environment? ›

Some human activities that cause damage (either directly or indirectly) to the environment on a global scale include population growth, neoliberal economic policies and rapid economic growth, overconsumption, overexploitation, pollution, and deforestation.

What country has the worst climate change per capita? ›

Since 2006, China has been emitting more CO 2 than any other country. When looking at CO2 emissions per person, China's levels are less than half those of the United States (the next largest source of CO 2 emissions) and about one-eighth of those of Palau (the biggest CO 2 emitter per person).

What country has the worst carbon footprint? ›

  • China. China is the largest emitter of carbon dioxide gas in the world, with 10,668 million metric tons emitted in 2020. ...
  • The U.S. The U.S. is the second-largest emitter of CO2, with 4,713 million metric tons of total carbon dioxide emissions in 2020. ...
  • India.

What type of food has the largest carbon footprint? ›

We have ordered some of the key foods from highest to lowest, based on their carbon footprint:
  • Beef - 60kg CO2e per kg.
  • Cheese - 21kg CO2e per kg.
  • Poultry - 6kg CO2e per kg.
  • Fish (Farmed) - 5kg CO2e per kg.
  • Bananas - 0.7kg CO2e per kg.
  • Nuts - 0.3kg CO2e per kg.

Where is global warming the strongest and by how much? ›

The earth's largest land masses and its north and south poles are warming the fastest, mainly because of differences in how these areas reflect energy from the sun.

What are the 4 major contributors to climate change? ›

Four Major Gases That Contribute to the Greenhouse Effect:
  • Carbon Dioxide. ...
  • Methane. ...
  • Nitrous Oxide. ...
  • Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
Jun 21, 2023

How much do cars contribute to global warming? ›

Highway vehicles release about 1.4 billion tons of greenhouse gases (GHGs) into the atmosphere each year—mostly in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2)—contributing to global climate change. Each gallon of gasoline you burn creates 20 pounds of GHG. That's roughly 5 to 9 tons of GHG each year for a typical vehicle.

How much does the US contribute to greenhouse gas emissions? ›

Key Points. In 2020, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions totaled 5,981 million metric tons (13.2 trillion pounds) of carbon dioxide equivalents. This total represents a 7 percent decrease since 1990 and a 20 percent decrease since 2005 (see Figure 1). For the United States, during the period from 1990 to 2020 (see Figure 1):

What are the 3 biggest contributors to climate change? ›

Burning fossil fuels, cutting down forests and farming livestock are increasingly influencing the climate and the earth's temperature.

What is the No 1 contributor to global warming? ›

Fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – are by far the largest contributor to global climate change, accounting for over 75 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 90 per cent of all carbon dioxide emissions.

Who is the biggest polluter in the world? ›

Since 1959, the United States has put more 334 billion tons (303 billion metric tons) of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, about 21.5% of the global total. Those figures are based on how much carbon dioxide is spewed within national borders.

Who is most responsible for climate change? ›

Greenhouse-gas emissions reached their highest-ever level in 2021, with global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels topping 36 billion metric tons. China is currently the highest emitter, followed by the US. Combined emissions from the European Union are the next largest, with India and Russia following.

How much CO2 does China produce compared to the US? ›

Since 1850, China has emitted 284 billion tons of CO2, according to new analysis by Carbon Brief, a UK-based organization covering climate, energy and policy. The US, on the other hand, industrialized decades earlier and has released 509 billion tons of CO2 – twice as much.

What country is reducing greenhouse gases the most? ›

Sweden is a leader in technologies for reducing carbon emissions in buildings. On a per capita basis, it emits less than one-tenth the level of GHGs as the United States.

Why are US emissions decreasing? ›

Coal generation displaced by natural gas and renewables

In the electric power sector, which accounts for 28% of overall emissions in the US, emissions decreased by 1% in 2022. Coal generation in the US fell in 2022, returning to the downward trend that had been in place until last year's modest increase.


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