We’ve Lost the Big MO on Climate. Time to Get it Back

January 8, 2019



Maybe we’re in that movie where the bad guys win?

Washington Post:

U.S. carbon dioxide emissions rose an estimated 3.4 percent in 2018, according to new research — a jarring increase that comes as scientists say the world needs to be aggressively cutting its emissions to avoid the most devastating effects of climate change.

The findings, published Tuesday by the independent economic research firm Rhodium Group, mean that the United States now has a diminishing chance of meeting its pledge under the 2015 Paris climate agreement to dramatically reduce its emissions by 2025.

The findings also underscore how the world’s second-largest emitter, once a global leader in pushing for climate action, has all but abandoned efforts to mitigate the effects of a warming world. President Trump has said he plans to officially withdraw the nation from the Paris climate agreement in 2020 and in the meantime has rolled back Obama-era regulations aimed at reducing the country’s carbon emissions.

“We have lost momentum. There’s no question,” Rob Jackson, a Stanford University professor who studies emissions trends, said of both U.S. and global efforts to steer the world toward a more sustainable future.

The sharp emissions rise was fueled primarily by a booming economy, researchers found. But the increase, which could prove to be the second-largest in the past 20 years, probably would not have been as stark without Trump administration rollbacks, said Trevor Houser, a partner at Rhodium.

“I don’t think you would have seen the same increase,” Houser said, referring to the electric power sector in particular.

Emissions from electric power generation rose 1.9 percent in 2018, the analysis found, driven chiefly by more demand for electricity, which was largely satisfied by more burning of natural gas. This fuel emits less greenhouse gas than coal when burned but is still a major contributor overall.

At the same time, emissions from the transportation sector rose 1 percent thanks to more airline travel and greater on-road shipping. Industrial emissions from factories and other major facilities also rose significantly in 2018, the analysis found.

The figures, based on data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration and other sources, remain an estimate because some data from last year is not finalized. But the trend line is consistent with a recent estimate from a group of academics associated with the Global Carbon Project, which found U.S. emissions likely to rise 2.5 percent in 2018.

Rising emissions are not just a U.S. problem. Global emissions also reached a record high in 2018, and the increase in the United States goes hand in hand with rising emissions in other countries, such as China and India, said Michael Mehling, deputy director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“It’s not an isolated phenomenon,” Mehling said, adding that the trend makes it difficult to solely blame the Trump administration’s deregulatory push and its dismissal of climate action for the change. “Such political developments, including the rollback of domestic climate policies in the U.S., tend to have a considerable lead time before you can actually see their reflection in physical emission trends.”


“What you’ve got is the United States on the top of a pyramid of fragmentation and creating space to legitimize that type of behavior on the part of other countries,” said David Wirth, a former climate negotiator who is now a law professor at Boston College.

Rolling Stone:

“Previous COPs have been chaotic and politically charged, but this is the first COP in which America not only abandoned its leadership role, but actively worked to subvert the political power of the agreement,” Goodell said before mapping out how then-President Barack Obama played an active role during the Paris COP in 2015.

“This year, everybody knew America was out of the game. Shortly after taking office, President Trump announced his intention to pull out of the Paris accord, which for procedural reasons, can’t happen until 2020. In the weeks prior to the meeting in Poland, President Trump suggested in a tweet, once again, that climate change is a hoax.”

COP brings together 197 nations from around the world to deal with the climate change crisis. However, this year the United States sent a small, Trump-less delegation to the conference that sided with Russia and Saudi Arabia on important matters pertaining to fossil fuels.

“When the talks ended, there were no breakthroughs in Katowice, and few signs that the nations of the world were poised to take dramatic action to cut carbon pollution in the near future,” Goodell explained. “But neither did the talks collapse into a bureaucratic black hole or spin out of control.”


4 Responses to “We’ve Lost the Big MO on Climate. Time to Get it Back”

  1. Sir Charles Says:

    Leave alone that 1.5°C fantasy. If we want to stay anywhere nearby below 2°C of global warming, the next decade is DECISIVE. 2019 must be the international year of awareness. Major shifts in politics have to be accomplished by 2030. This climate crisis has to get massive media attention. Tell your local paper. Write a mail to your TV stations… Let’s call it what it is => https://tinyurl.com/CallTheCrisis

    • rsmurf Says:

      Agree 100%. But it’s not gonna happen. There are way too many people that will not make ANY CHANGES, unless they are forced to, or it saves them money. Ive already made most of the changes that need to be made. But most of the people I know have not done ANYTHING.

      • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

        If we can get structural changes in, even the people who “don’t do anything” will reduce their carbon footprints. Examples: More efficient public buildings, higher CAFE standards, lower-CO2-emitting manufacturing, large companies committing to renewable energy, only CFL/LED lighting available, etc.

        That said, I agree that we probably won’t clear the pole-vault bar.

  2. […] noted in a previous post, carbon emissions are up, globally, 2 years in a […]

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