Jan 8, 2019

Analysis shows U.S. energy carbon emissions spiked in 2018

A coal-fired power plant in West Virginia. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

A new Rhodium Group analysis shows that U.S. carbon emissions from energy — which is the overwhelming cause of emissions — jumped by 3.4% last year, ending years of declines.

The big picture: The news comes after the EU-funded Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) concluded that 2018 was Earth's 4th-warmest on record, with the past 4 years serving as the planet's hottest seen since instrument records began in 1880 (and likely well before that).

  • "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," Rhodium said of the preliminary data.
  • U.S. emissions have been generally declining for a decade, but last year's jump comes after the pace of emissions cuts has been decelerating.

Why it matters: Rhodium's study shows that the U.S. is falling farther off the pace from its pledge to cut overall greenhouse gas emissions by 26%–28% below 2005 levels by 2025.

  • To hit that target, energy-related CO2 emissions would need to fall by an average of 2.6% annually by then, and even more if declines in other GHGs slow, according to Rhodium.
  • That would be more than twice the pace of cuts between 2005 and 2017, and "significantly faster than any seven-year average in US history," they say.

Details: Rhodium's study found that 2018 U.S. CO2 emissions were up in all major sectors: electricity, transportation, buildings and industry.

  • Power generation from coal — the most carbon-emitting fuel — fell again last year, but overall power demand rose and was met largely with gas, despite renewables' growth.
  • When it comes to transportation — now the biggest emissions source — gasoline demand dipped very slightly, but that was vastly outweighed by increases from trucking and aviation.
  • Buildings and industry had the biggest increases, with emissions from each sector rising by about 55 million metric tons. Some of the building emissions increase stems from a cold winter.
  • But more broadly, Rhodium notes that modest improvements in the efficiency of furnaces aren't offsetting the effect of population growth and increasing demand for building energy.

The big picture: Axios' Andrew Freedman notes that last year had a global average surface temperature that was 0.2°C colder than 2016, which was the warmest year in Copernicus' dataset, but more than 0.4°C above the 1981–2010 average. Scientists at C3S also find...

  • The average temperature of the last 5 years was 1.1°C, or 1.98°F, higher than the pre-industrial average.
  • This is significant since temperatures are edging closer to the 1.5°C aspirational warming target.

Go deeper: Key global warming target slipping out of reach, UN scientists warn

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 4 p.m. ET: 5,463,392 — Total deaths: 344,503 — Total recoveries — 2,195,325Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 4 p.m. ET: 1,653,904 — Total deaths: 97,948 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,915Map.
  3. World: Italy reports lowest number of new cases since February — Ireland reports no new coronavirus deaths on Monday for the first time since March 21 — WHO suspends trial of hydroxychloroquine over safety concerns.
  4. 2020: Trump threatens to move Republican convention from North Carolina — Joe Biden makes first public appearance in two months.
  5. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks over Memorial Day.
  6. Economy: New York stock exchange to reopen its floor on Tuesday — White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Charities refocus their efforts to fill gaps left by government.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 34 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Italy reports lowest number of new coronavirus cases since February

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The Italian government reported 300 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, the lowest daily increase since Feb. 29.

Why it matters: Italy, the first country in Europe to implement a nationwide lockdown after emerging as a hotspot in March, appears to have finally weathered its coronavirus outbreak. Italy has reported nearly 33,000 total deaths, the third-highest total behind the U.S. and U.K.

Joe Biden makes first public appearance in over two months

Photo: Oliver Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden made his first in-person appearance in over two months on Monday to honor Memorial Day by laying a wreath at a Delaware veterans park, AP reports.

Why it matters: Biden, the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee, has taken the unprecedented step of campaigning from his home during the coronavirus pandemic, ever since canceling a rally in Cleveland on March 10.