Greenhouse gas emissions rose in the US in 2013, according to a report released this week by the Environmental Agency.
The 20th Inventory of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks showed that in 2013, the US emitted two percent more greenhouse gases than in 2012. Since the EPA began tracking emissions in 1990, they have risen 5.9 percent, although in more recent years the US has done better, with levels falling 9 percent since 2005.
Tracking greenhouse gas emissions is important because in 2009, the G8 countries pledged to cut emissions by 80 percent by 2050 to prevent average temperatures from rising above 2℃ — a threshold that, if breached, could have devastating consequences.
According to the recent EPA report, the US spewed a total of 6,673 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2013, or 15 percent of the global total.
Not surprisingly, power plants were the largest contributor of emissions in 2013, accounting for 31 percent of the total. Transportation came in second at 27 percent. The US emits about 16.5 tons of carbon per person, more than China’s 7.2 (though China exceeded the EU’s per person emissions for the first time last year). Worldwide, the per capita average is five tons of CO2.
According to the report, the two percent increase from 2012 to 2013 was due to an increase in coal consumption partially due to a colder than normal winter and a hotter than normal summer that led to increases in commercial and residential heating and cooling.
The US also offset about 882 million metric tons of carbon through land use and forestry activities in 2013.
Over the last year, a number of countries have made pledges to cut emissions in advance of the Paris Climate Summit in December, where the world’s countries hope to sign a treaty that will address global climate policies.