Carbon dioxide emissions at new low in US, remain high globally

CO2 emissions are at a low point in the United States right now, but remain high globally. Photo from blogs.scientificamerican.com.

CO2 emissions are at a low point in the United States right now, but remain high globally. Photo from blogs.scientificamerican.com.

According to a report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), a branch of the Department of Energy, the United States’ carbon dioxide (CO2, a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere) emissions were at its lowest last year since 1994.

The peak for metric tons of CO2 emitted from coal, natural gas and oil consumption was 6 million metric tons in 2007. Last year, the consumption dropped to 5.3 million.

According to an article from the the Environmental News Network, “the EIA cited increased use of natural gas and falling consumption of coal as the primary reason for the drop in emissions of the greenhouse gas.”

Conservation efforts, the lagging economy and the greater use of reusable energy have also helped lower the emissions.

The world’s leading climate researchers did not see this change coming, according to a Huffington Post article. This change was sparked by “market forces” and not government action.

But, other parts of the world are still struggling. Coal and energy continue to grow quickly, especially in China. Globally, the CO2 levels are still rising.

Michael Mann, the director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, said he is cautiously optimistic about this change. He added that “ultimately people follow their wallets’ on global warming.”

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