Global Warming Pollution Doubled In 28 States Since 1960

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    WASHINGTON, D.C. – Twenty-eight states more than doubled their carbon dioxide emissions between 1960 and 2001, according to a new analysis of government data released today by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG). Increased combustion of oil to fuel cars and light trucks and coal for electricity drove the steep rise in emissions.

    The report was released on the same day that Rep. Henry Waxman of California introduced the Safe Climate Act, a science-based approach to dramatically reduce global warming pollution.

    "When you find yourself in a hole, the first thing you should do is stop digging. To protect future generations from the effects of global warming, we need to stop this trend of increasing pollution," said U.S. PIRG Clean Air & Energy Advocate Emily Figdor. "As the numbers in this report show, the Waxman bill comes not a moment too soon to address the most profound environmental problem of our generation."

    Using data compiled by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. PIRG’s new report, called "The Carbon Boom," examines trends in carbon dioxide emissions and fossil fuel combustion nationally, regionally, and by state between 1960 and 2001, the most recent year for which state-by-state data are available.

    Major findings of the report include:

    • Nationwide, emissions of carbon dioxide nearly doubled between 1960 and 2001, jumping from 2.9 billion metric tons in 1960 to almost 5.7 billion metric tons in 2001, an increase of 95 percent.

    • Among the states, Texas ranked first in the nation for the highest emissions of carbon dioxide in 2001, releasing 12 percent of the nation’s total. Twenty-eight states more than doubled their carbon dioxide emissions between 1960 and 2001. The 10 states that experienced the largest overall increases in emissions were Texas, Florida, California, Georgia, Louisiana, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Missouri, and Arizona.

    • Increased oil and coal combustion each accounted for 40 percent of the rise in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions between 1960 and 2001. Oil emissions from the transportation sector soared over the period due to a dramatic rise in vehicle travel and the stagnating fuel efficiency of vehicles, while oil emissions from every other sector peaked in the 1970s. Coal emissions from the electricity sector skyrocketed over the period, increasing by 370 percent, as demand for electricity boomed; at the same time, coal emissions from every other sector declined.

    The early effects of global warming are evident across the U.S. and worldwide. Left unchecked, global warming threatens to cause wide ranging problems, such as flooding of coastal areas, drought, species extinction, and disease outbreaks. The U.S. could substantially reduce its global warming pollution by using existing technologies to make power plants and cars more efficient and increase the use of clean, renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass. But oil companies, automakers, and most electric utilities continue to fight common sense solutions to global warming, Figdor noted.

    Rep. Waxman’s Safe Climate Act requires the U.S. to reduce its global warming pollution by 15 percent by 2020 and by 80 percent by 2050. To achieve these targets, the bill calls for improved energy efficiency and a greater reliance on clean, renewable energy sources, while providing companies flexibility in meeting the pollution-reduction goals through a "cap-and-trade" program. Senator Jeffords of Vermont is working on a similar bill to be introduced shortly in the Senate.

    In response to the new report, Rep. Waxman commented, "PIRG’s report shows state-by-state how the problem has been growing for decades. Now is the time to heed the scientists and start healing the climate. The Safe Climate Act will dramatically reduce emissions of greenhouse gases to the levels needed to avoid dangerous global warming. We start now and increase improvements over time, as we replace dirty old energy sources with clean renewable energy and energy efficiency."

    "Our leaders must take decisive action to stop the worst effects of global warming. We applaud Representative Waxman for introducing a forward looking bill that provides a real solution to global warming, while at the same time reducing our dependence on oil, reducing air pollution, and protecting pristine places from oil drilling and mining. It’s a win-win solution," concluded Figdor.

    The report is available at www.uspirg.org/carbonboom.

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    Tim Miejan
    Tim Miejan is a writer who served as former editor and publisher of The Edge for twenty-five years. Contact him at [email protected].

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