A U.S. Carbon Transition?
What factors have helped the United States reduce its per capita emissions?
1. Global carbon emissions reached almost five tons per person on Earth in 2013 — the highest level on record.
2. While emissions appear to have stalled in 2014, they need to fall much further to limit the extent of global warming.
3. In 2013, the United States was responsible for 5.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
4. That was the second most of any country — and 15% of the record 35.3 billion tons emitted that year.
5. Taking into account its population of nearly 320 million, the United States emitted 16.6 tons of CO2 per person in 2013 — more than three times the global average of 4.9 tons.
6. The United States had the 11th highest per capita CO2 emissions in 2013.
7. Since 1990, U.S. per capita emissions have fallen by 16%.
8. This is partly a result of decommissioning the oldest, most carbon-intensive U.S. power plants, increasing auto fuel efficiency standards (and driving less), and substituting cleaner-burning natural gas for coal.
9. CO2 is a by-product of the burning of oil, coal and natural gas for energy. Its increasing concentration in the atmosphere since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution is one of the primary causes of human-induced climate change.
10. Preliminary estimates by the International Energy Agency indicate that global CO2 emissions fell in 2014.
11. This would be the first year in recent decades that CO2 emissions fell in the absence of a major economic shock.
12. Global emissions fell during the mid-1970s oil crisis and the U.S. recessions in the early 1980s, as well as in 1992 after the collapse of the Soviet Union and in 2009 after the global financial crisis.
Data Sources: Emission Database for Global Atmospheric Research and International Energy Agency