Carbon emissions rise 2 percent in U.S. due to increase in coal

Jeremy Hance
January 14, 2014

Carbon dioxide emissions rose two percent in the U.S. last year, according to preliminary data from the Energy Information Administration. Emissions rose largely due to increased coal consumption, the first such rise in U.S. emissions since 2010. Still, the annual emissions remain well below the peak hit in 2007 when emissions hit 6 billion tons.

The U.S. emitted around 5.38 billion tons of CO2 last year from burning fossil fuels, up from 5.27 billion tons in 2012. The rise in emissions is linked to increased coal consumption during the second half of 2013 when rising natural gas prices made coal more competitive. Coal is the world's most carbon-intensive fuel source.

Male polar bear. Climate change is melting Arctic sea ice, which is impacting polar bears and other Arctic species. Photo by: USGS.
Male polar bear. Climate change is melting Arctic sea ice, which is impacting polar bears and other Arctic species. Photo by: USGS.
The Obama Administration has pledged to the global community to cut emissions 17 percent by 2020 based on 2005 levels. While the U.S. does not have national legislation to cut carbon dioxide emissions, they are falling due to a slower economy, improved energy efficiency, increased renewable energy sources, and coal power being increasingly substituted with natural gas. Up-coming regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on new and existing energy plants are expected to further rein-in the nation's coal consumption. Experts say that these new regulations will likely lead to emissions decreasing again.

The U.S. is currently the second largest emitter of carbon dioxide after China, and the world's biggest historical emitter.

Global warming, driven primarily by burning the world's fossil fuels, is already raising sea levels, melting Arctic sea ice and glaciers, and likely causing more frequent and worse extreme weather. Scientists say that if global society doesn't rein-in emissions quickly and aggressively, future impacts could include mass extinction, agricultural collapse, water shortages, and even increased warfare.

Chart courtesy of: Energy Information Administration.
Chart courtesy of: Energy Information Administration.

AUTHOR: Jeremy Hance joined Mongabay full-time in 2009. He currently serves as senior writer and editor. He has also authored a book.

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Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (January 14, 2014).

Carbon emissions rise 2 percent in U.S. due to increase in coal .