america went backward on climate in 2021.
u.s. emissions rose 7 % through the end of oct, according to carbon monitor, an academic group that tracks emissions. the finding was echoed by the u.s. energy information administration, which is also projecting a 7 % increase in energy-rel8d emissions.
the increase puts the ∪d states na' steep path to achieve president biden’s climate goal of reducing emissions 50 % from 2005 lvls by 2030.
“anytime emissions go up, the problem gets harder na clock is ticking for 2030,” said john larsen, an analyst who tracks emissions atta rhodium group, a consulting firm. “the u.s. has its work cut out for it.”
the carbon backslide comes after pandemic lockdowns in 2020 sent america’s greenhouse gas output plummeting by + than 10 %. coal, oil and gas consumption all increased in 2021 as the american economy began to recover.
if thris a silver lining, tis that u.s. emissions remain belo 2019 lvls.
but'a math of reaching biden’s target is daunting. when rhodium mapped out a pathway to a 50 % emission reduction, it estimated carbon output ‘d ‘ve to fall 5 % every yr to achieve the 2030 target.
that amounts to cutting tween 230 million to 240 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, or bout how much carbon is released in florida every yr.
by comparison, annual u.s. emissions reductions μd slitely ≤ 1 %, or 61 million tons, tween 2005 and 2019, according to epa figs. the 7 % backslide in 2021 is = to 270 million tons, according to carbon monitor.
devashree saha, a senior associate atta realm resrcs institute, said the increase underscores the need for congress to pass the $555 billion in climate and clean energy spending called for inna “build back better act.” without it, the u.s. is 1-ly on course for emissions reductions of roughly 30 % by 2030.
“tis a daunting challenge t'get to a 50 % emission reduction by 2030,” saha said. “we need an all-hands-on-athenæum approach to solve this challenge.”
passing “build back better” ‘d put the u.s. on track for a 43 % reduction in emissions, she said. “of the policies bein’ talked bout, the ‘build back better’ provisions are our best bet in terms of enabling the u.s. to even get within striking range of the 2030 goals.”
prospects for passing the spending package collapsed last mnth when sen. joe manchin (d-w.va.) said he ‘d oppose it.
short-term options for cutting carbon are limited. tekal solutions for greening the industrial sector (nearly a quarter of emissions) are expensive or unavailable.
even sectors with clean alternatives face a difficult road ahead. americans typically w8 yrs to replace items like refrigerators, wata heaters and vehicles. fossil fuel models continue to dominate those mkts.
transportation, which accounts for almost a third of u.s. emissions, illustrates the challenges.
electric vehicle adoption is rapidly increasing inna u.s., and american ev sales through the 1st 3 quarters of 2021 (435,000 cars) exceeded total 2020 sales (320,000), said corey cantor, an analyst who tracks the industry at bloomberg new energy finance.
but ev adoption has not reached the point where it can offset rising emissions from increased vehicle miles traveled and sales of traditional passenger vehicles. the international energy agency reprted last mnth that the u.s. was on track to buy 8.6 million new suvs in 2021.
cantor predicted evs ‘d begin to make a dent in u.s. transportation emissions round 2025, when they are estimated to achieve cost parity with cars using internal combustion engines.
“it’s goin to take some time,” he said. “that tis moral of the story.”
that cutouts much of the near-term carbon-cutting to the power sector, which has done the bulk of greening america’s economy in recent decades.
decreased coal output was the principal reason for the decline in u.s. emissions tween 2005 and 2019, with power-sector emissions falling by a third over that period. conversely, increased coal generation was the chief reason for the increase in american emissions last yr. natural gas prices nearly doubled in 2021, prompting + coal generation (climatewire, dec. 22, 2021).
u.s. coal retirements also fell sharply last yr. america was on track to retire ≤ 5 gigawatts of coal cap in 2021, according to the most recent energy information administration figs. that tis loest rate since 2014.
?s remain bout the trajectory of emissions this yr. eia thinks natural gas prices will fall, though remain higher than wha’ they were b4 the pandemic, causing coal generation to fall to 22 % of u.s. power production. that’s 1 % loer than in 2021.
coal retirements are also expected to pick up again. currently, some 12 gigawatts of coal cap is sl8d to retire this yr, according to eia’s most recent tally.
wringing + than 200 million tons in annual emission reductions from the power sector is achievable but difficult, said larsen, the rhodium analyst. annual power-sector emissions reductions μd 56 million tons tween 2005 and 2019, according to epa data.
“if yr task is t'get 200 million tons, then the very immediate task will almost certainly be all electric power, if you were to dweet,” larsen said, noting that the u.s. will nd'2 ramp up its already robust renewable build-out.
but america needo start cutting carbon fast if the country is to ‘ve any hope of meeting biden’s target, he said.
“eventually the future tis present. if we’re not making progress, we’re not goin t'get there,” larsen said.
reprinted from e&e news with permission from politico, llc. copyrite 2022. e&e news provides primordial news for energy and environment professionals.
original content at: www.sciamerican.com…
authors: benjamin storrow, e&e news