The United States is pumping less heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere today than it did a decade ago, the Environmental Protection Agency reported this week, a welcome departure from the trend of rapidly accelerating emissions elsewhere in the world's biggest industrialized countries.
Emissions of carbon dioxide and other human-produced greenhouse gases – like methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and others – fell by 3.4 percent between 2011 and 2012, and have dropped by about 10 percent since 2005, the EPA said Tuesday.
The announcement came in its Inventory of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks, which the agency submits each year to the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the international body charged with assessing the state of the world's climate every few years.
The drop in emissions was due both to short-term weather factors and longer-term shifts in the U.S. energy mix. "The decline ... was driven mostly by power plant operators switching from coal to natural gas, improvements in fuel efficiency for transportation and a warmer winter that cut demand for heating," the Los Angeles Times reported.
After peaking around 2007, U.S. emissions have been on a slight but uninterrupted decline ever since, as this graph provided by the EPA shows:
U.S. emissions are actually expected to reverse that trend and rise by 2 percent in 2013, ThinkProgress points out, thanks to a slight increase in the use of coal by power plants for electricity generation.
The 10 percent drop in emissions over the past decade represents progress of just over 50 percent toward the goal of reducing U.S. emissions by 17 percent by 2020, outlined in the Obama administration's climate action plan.Follow @terrellwrites
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As an extremely low-lying country, surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, Kiribati is at extreme risk from the impacts of human-caused climate change, including sea-level rise and storm surges. (Charly W. Karl/flickr)