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Chart of the Day: Total US Carbon Emissions, 1990-2018

Here’s some bad news for folks concerned about climate change: national greenhouse has emissions have gone up markedly over the last year. In a New York Times article today, Brad Plumer has a story about the 3% uptick over the last year.

Here’s the chart:

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According to Plumer, there are a few reasons for the increase. One of them is an increase in industrial activity, but the other has to do with transportation trends.

Here’s the relevant bit:

Since 2011, the federal government has been steadily ratcheting up fuel-economy standards for cars and light trucks, although the Trump administration has proposed to halt the toughening of those standards after 2021.

There are signs that those standards have been effective. In the first nine months of 2018, Americans drove slightly more miles in passenger vehicles than they did over that span the previous year, yet gasoline use dropped by 0.1 percent, thanks in part to fuel-efficient vehicles and electric cars.

But, as America’s economy expanded last year, trucking and air travel also grew rapidly, leading to a 3 percent increase in diesel and jet fuel use and spurring an overall rise in transportation emissions for the year. Air travel and freight have also attracted less attention from policymakers to date and are considered much more difficult to electrify or decarbonize.

Needless to say, the increase is terrible news for the climate. To have a stable environment, our planet needs to be drastically cutting back on CO2 emissions. Instead we’re heading in the other direction.

Bill Lindeke

About Bill Lindeke

Pronouns: he/him

Bill Lindeke has writing blogging about sidewalks and cities since 2005, ever since he read Jane Jacobs. He is a lecturer in Urban Studies at the University of Minnesota Geography Department, the Cityscape columnist at Minnpost, and has written multiple books on local urban history. He was born in Minneapolis, but has spent most of his time in St Paul. Check out Twitter @BillLindeke or on Facebook.