In the midst of all the natural catastrophes happening worldwide and the dire climate change predictions, here is a small piece of good news: greenhouse gas emissions fell by 2.1% in the U.S in 2019, mainly due to coal usage declining nationwide.
According to a report published on Tuesday by the research firm, Rhodium Group, power generated from coal power plants fell by 18%, reaching their lowest levels since 1975. Meanwhile, emissions all across the power sector decreased by 10%. Coal power has mostly been replaced by oil and natural gas plants, as well hydroelectric and solar facilities. The report found that renewable energy usage has increased by 6% in 2019.
Vice reports that coal power plants have been closing at a considerable rate in recent years. Since President Trump took office, 61 coal plants have shut down. 2019 also saw some of the country’s biggest coal plants close. This comes as Trump continues to try and prop up the failing coal industry; his replacement for Obama’s Clean Power Plan was supposed to encourage the construction of new coal plants and allow existing plants to remain operational.
There is some bad news, however. The report “estimates that transportation emissions declined slightly—by 0.3% year-on-year. Industrial emissions (both energy and process) rose by 0.6%. Direct emissions from buildings increased by 2.2% and emissions from other sectors (agriculture, waste, land use, oil and gas methane, etc) rose by 4.4%.”
While The Atlantic applauds the decline in national coal usage, it asserts that the decline in greenhouse gas pollution isn’t happening fast enough. “We see nothing currently planned at the federal or the state level that is going to put the U.S. on track for the Paris Agreement target,” Trevor Houser, an author of the report and a partner at the Rhodium Group, told the magazine.
From The Atlantic:
The United States is the world’s second biggest emitter of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, which cause both ocean acidification and global warming. While the United States is responsible for about 14 percent of all annual greenhouse emissions today, it is the largest all-time source of cumulative carbon pollution. And as it is the world’s largest consumer market, its energy system and federal policies play an outsize role in helping new technologies achieve mass scale and low cost.
The Rhodium Group report concludes by saying it’s still possible for the U.S meet the standards set by the Paris Agreement–a 26% cut in emissions by 2025. But for that to happen, we need “a significant change in federal policy—and pretty soon.”