Posts Tagged ‘emissions’

Time: China Shows It’s Getting Serious About Climate Change

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

China—the world’s largest polluter—has sought to portray itself as a leader in the global fight against climate change in recent years. The country has expedited the development of renewable energy power plants, experimented with cap-and-trade programs and last year committed to curb its growing carbon dioxide emissions in coming decades.

But despite these initiatives many lawmakers in the United States and policy makers around the world have viewed China’s environmental programs with skepticism—more promise than performance. China’s landmark announcement Friday of a national cap-and-trade program and other policies to reduce carbon emissions should ameliorate some of those concerns, experts said, even while the country faces roadblocks to implementation.

Last year’s joint announcement from the U.S. and China set big goals on the part of both countries to eventually reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The U.S. promised to reduce carbon emissions by 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025, and Chinese officials said the country’s carbon dioxide emissions would reach peak levels by 2030.

This week’s announcement, both from the U.S. and China, follows up on that target, providing a plan to reach it. A cap-and-trade program would set a national limit in China on carbon emissions in the heavy-polluting industries of power generation, iron and steel, chemicals, and building materials and require companies to buy credits to pollute. Another program will prioritize the use renewable energy on the grid. (Right now, while China produces a great deal of renewable energy, problems with the grid means much of it goes unused.) The country will also improve appliance and vehicle efficiency standards.

Keep Reading

Inside Climate News: Americans Are Fueling Up Cheaply, and the Climate Suffers

Thursday, August 13th, 2015

So much for the idea that American gasoline use topped out in the last decade.

Lower oil prices and the improving economy have sparked an increase in fuel use, road travel and vehicle emissions. It puts an emphatic end to the notion that better fuel economy and fewer active drivers would shrink demand for gasoline in the U.S. from what was thought to be its peak in 2007.

That’s bad news for the climate. Processing crude oil and burning gasoline send huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and are major contributors to global warming. The increase in those emissions comes at an inopportune time. World leaders expect the U.S. to lead the way on emission reductions as negotiations continue toward a global climate treaty in December.

After falling for five straight years, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from gasoline consumption rose 1.4 percent in 2013, followed by a less than 1 percent increase in 2014 to 1.07 billion metric tons, according to the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA).  Last year’s total amounted to 83 percent of the CO2 emissions for the nation’s transportation sector, and 28 percent of energy-related emissions.

“When it comes to the climate, every bit matters, and we need to continue to be on a downward trajectory,” said Roland Hwang, director of the energy and transportation program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “It’s not as devastating for the environment as it was in the 90s, when we had no carbon constraints in place, but I’m still worried.”

Continue Reading

The White House: Leading by Example on Climate Change–Our New Federal Sustainability Plan

Thursday, March 19th, 2015

Late last year, in an historic joint announcement with China, President Obama set an ambitious goal for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change – a clear sign that the United States’ commitment to leadership on climate change at home and abroad is stronger than ever.

In the latest effort to continue that push, this morning, President Obama signed an executive order that will help us stay on track to meet the new target pledged in China and ensure that the federal government leads by example as the United States moves boldly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while boosting clean energy. This new sustainability plan for the next decade directs federal agencies to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2025. That means big cuts to the dangerous emissions driving climate change – and also big savings. In addition to 21 million metric tons of emission reductions – the same as taking 4.2 million cars of the road for a year — achieving this goal will save taxpayers up to $18 billion in avoided energy costs between 2008 and 2025.

Today’s action builds off of the strong progress the federal government has made over the past six years. Already, federal agencies have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent since the President took office, and increased the share of electricity consumed from renewable sources from 3 percent to 9 percent in 2013. Agencies have also made progress on a number of other fronts, like reducing water use by 19 percent since 2007. But there is much more work to do – and that’s what today’s announcement is all about.

Continue Reading

Grist: Why coal is (still) worse than fracking and cow burps

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Is fracking for natural gas good for the planet? To understand the pitched fight over this question, you first need to realize that for many years, we’ve been burning huge volumes of coal to get electricity — and coal produces a ton of carbon dioxide, the chief gas behind global warming. Natural gas, by contrast, produces half as much carbon dioxide when it burns, and thus, the fracking boom has been credited with a decline in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. So far so good, right?

Umm, maybe. Recently on our Inquiring Minds podcast, we heard from Anthony Ingraffea, a professor of engineering at Cornell University, who contends that it just isn’t that simple. Methane (the main component of natural gas) is also a hard-hitting greenhouse gas, if it somehow finds its way into the atmosphere. And Ingraffea argued that because of high leakage rates of methane from shale gas development, that’s exactly what’s happening. The trouble is that methane has a much greater “global warming potential” than carbon dioxide, meaning that it has a greater “radiative forcing” effect on the climate over a given time period (and especially over shorter time periods). In other words, according to Ingraffea, the CO2 savings from burning natural gas instead of coal is being canceled out by all the methane that leaks into the atmosphere when we’re extracting and transporting that gas. (Escaped methane from natural gas drilling complements other preexisting sources, such as the belching of cows.)

But not every scientist agrees with Ingraffea’s methane-centered argument. In particular, Raymond Pierrehumbert, a geoscientist at the University of Chicago, has prominently argued that carbon dioxide “is in a class by itself” among greenhouse warming pollutants, because unlike methane, its impacts occur over such a dramatic timescale that they are “essentially irreversible.”

Keep Reading

In Some States, Emissions Cuts Defy Skeptics

Friday, June 20th, 2014

The cries of protest have been fierce, warning that President Obama’s plan to cut greenhouse gases from power plants will bring soaring electricity bills and even plunge the nation into blackouts. By the time the administration is finished, one prominent critic said, “millions of Americans will be freezing in the dark.”

Yet cuts on the scale Mr. Obama is calling for — a 30 percent reduction in emissions from the nation’s electricity industry by 2030 — have already been accomplished in parts of the country.

At least 10 states cut their emissions by that amount or more between 2005 and 2012, and several other states were well on their way, almost two decades before Mr. Obama’s clock for the nation runs out.

Read more