Related carbon emissions rose in US in 2018

GOP men in the House

The increase in emissions could be the second-largest in the past 20 years.

After three years of decline, climate change causing carbon dioxide emissions rose sharply in the U.S. last year according to new research. "Such political developments, including the rollback of domestic climate policies in the USA, tend to have a considerable lead time before you can actually see their reflection in physical emission trends". President Trump has said the US will no longer participate in the Paris accord, promising to withdraw from the plan in 2020.

The US is the world's second largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

"While a record number of coal-fired power plants were retired a year ago, natural gas not only beat out renewables to replace most of this lost generation but also fed most of the growth in electricity demand", the report reads. In a major global climate change meeting in Poland last month, the Trump administration hailed a 14 percent decline in emissions from 2005 levels.

Now, that means the USA will need to drop "energy-related carbon missions by 2.6% on average over the next seven years" - and possibly even faster - to meet that goal. "That is significantly faster than the 1.2% average annual reduction between 2005 and 2017". "It is certainly feasible, but will likely require a fairly significant change in policy in the very near future and/or extremely favorable market and technological conditions", researchers concluded.

The economy grew steadily for most of 2018, and economic growth is closely tied to carbon emissions.

Prolonged cold spells in a number of regions drove up demand for energy in the winter, while a hot summer in many parts led to more air conditioning, again pushing up electricity use.

The sharp emissions rise was fueled primarily by a booming economy, researchers found. It called buildings one of the sectors "most often ignored in clean energy and climate policymaking". It also said its numbers are in line with recent estimates from the Global Carbon Project, a group that works with researchers on greenhouse gases and climate change, which reported us emissions likely rose 2.5% past year.

Despite this, there is little to cheer in the United States data for those concerned with climate change on a global scale. President Trump announced in 2017 that the USA would leave the agreement, and Rhodium reported the nation was already behind the pace to meet its targets - a 26% to 28% carbon emissions reduction by 2025 - before past year.

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Image copyright Getty Images What has changed in the US?

For the last decade, the sector's emissions have declined largely due to economic forces - a decrease in power demand during the recession and a shift from coal to cheaper natural gas brought on by the fracking boom.

The Trump administration, which has announced its intent to leave the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, is relaxing Obama-era rules on emissions from power plants and vehicles as it seeks to boost production of oil, gas and coal.

Elgie Holstein, Senior Director for Strategic Planning of the Environmental Defense Fund, tells Salon this report is a "sobering reminder" that, while scientists are warning the world to act quickly on climate change, the Trump administration is working trying to dismantle previously established safeguards.

Under Mr Trump's administration, the federal government has also opened up once-protected lands for oil and gas drilling across the U.S. and has proposed ending regulations on fuel standards for cars and trucks after 2021.

Pressed to reconcile his statements and the Rhodium Group data, Sommers said it's "important that we recognize the broader trend".

The US jump also marks a worldwide trend: 2018 saw an all-time high for global Carbon dioxide emissions and was the fourth warmest year on record.

Fuels consumed by the transport sector were for the third year in a row the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States. Emissions from the transportation, industrial and buildings sectors also rose, leading to an estimated 3.4% overall increase.

Emissions from residential and commercial buildings, which use oil and gas for heating and cooking, rose 10 percent a year ago.

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