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Emissions Track The Economy

According to a recent study released by the International Energy Agency (IEA), CO2 emissions in the United States have experienced the greatest fall since 2006. The study was conducted in a global perspective, comparing developed nations and regions to each other, including the United States, China, Russia, India, and the EU as primary sources.

Global fossil fuel emissions increased on the whole, but U.S. emissions managed to drop by 1.7%. This is attributed to an ongoing switch from coal to natural gas, combined with a mild winter which caused less energy demand for heating.

Further, there has been a drop in the price of natural gas, and many have switched to more fuel efficient vehicles, which also added to the total drop in CO2 emissions in the U.S. Interestingly enough, not much credit is being given to politicians for the drop in emissions, though a handful of states have enacted their own emission-cutting policies, which may have had a small impact on the emission decrease.

Overall, the U.S. has had the largest drop in CO2 emissions since 2006, but it was in the context of a record setting global emission amount. Progress is slow, but from an emission reduction perspective, it is moving in the right direction.

Around the world, politicians, scientists, and other leaders hoped the recession experienced by everyone would drive down CO2 emissions, in contrast to the rise in CO2 emissions during an economic boom. It makes some sense, since everyone would cut back in their emissions during a recession, but unfortunately, that isn’t how it works.

Richard York, a researcher with the Department of Sociology and Environmental Studies Program at the University of Oregon, found CO2 emissions rose by 0.73% for every 1% rise in GDP during economically prosperous times, but only fell 0.43% for every 1% fall in GDP during economically depressed times. Obviously this is not enough of a decrease to offset the rise, which is why there are still serious emission concerns.

It appears emission decreases are a combined effort, utilizing the economy and trends in individuals’ spending. If a strong federal emission policy were also implemented, the decrease in CO2 emissions could be even greater.

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