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U.S. carbon emissions increased 3.4 percent in 2018

The 2018 increase is the second largest in the last two decades and follows three years of declining emissions.

By Brooks Hays
U.S. carbon emissions increased 3.4 percent in 2018
Carbon emissions in the U.S. increased in 2018, according to new research. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 8 (UPI) -- Carbon emissions in the United States increased 3.4 percent in 2018, the second largest increase in more than 20 years. The increase followed three years of declining emissions.

According to a report by the independent research firm the Rhodium Group, preliminary data suggests the usual industries are responsible for the rise in emissions. The transportation sector remains America's largest emitter, while the power sector's emissions increased 1.9 percent. The buildings and industrial sectors also posted significant emissions totals in 2018.

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A record number of coal power plant closings wasn't enough to slow carbon emissions, according to the Rhodium Group's research. Coal was mostly replaced by natural gas, not renewables.

The reported estimate is "based on preliminary power generation, natural gas and oil consumption data."

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Last month, a Global Carbon Project report predicted a 2.7 percent increase.

At least part of the increase in 2018 emissions can be explained by a frigid start to the year in the Northeast, where oil and gas is used to heat homes. But economic growth offers a better explanation, according to Rhodium Group researchers.

The economy grew steadily for most of 2018, and economic growth is closely tied to carbon emissions. Manufacturing growth fueled a 5.7 percent increase in the industrial emissions total.

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The sectors responsible for the largest emissions totals have made limited progress "developing decarbonization strategies," according to the report.

"The U.S. was already off track in meeting its Paris Agreement targets," researchers wrote. "The gap is even wider headed into 2019."

While the U.S. remains a major source of global carbon emissions, it isn't alone. Carbon emissions rose across much of the globe in 2018.

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Multiple reports published at the end of last year showed neither current government policies nor private pledges of decarbonization are sufficient to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.

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