Economic Shock Lowers U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Below 1990 Levels, Report Says

The decrease in U.S. economic activity during the pandemic year of 2020 reduced the country's greenhouse gas emissions by 10.3 percent.

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January 12, 2021, 10:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


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Rhodium Group has released its preliminary report on U.S. greenhouse gas emissions for 2020, estimating a dramatic decrease in emissions during the pandemic year.

Kate Larsen, Hannah Pitt, and Alfredo Rivera write an article for the Rhodium Group to explain the report's preliminary estimations, noting at the aperture that 2020 was an unusual year: limiting the spread of infection produced a historic shock to the U.S. economy and a 10.5 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

"That is the single largest drop in annual emissions in the post-World War II era, outpacing the Great Recession of 2009 when emissions dipped 6.3%," according to the article. The decline also lowers GHG emissions in the United States below 1990 levels for the first time. "With emissions down 21% below 2005 levels, this means the US is expected to far exceed its 2020 Copenhagen Accord target of a 17% reduction below 2005 levels."

The Paris Accords are intended to prevent economic collapse (by way of environmental collapse), so the writers caution against considering 2020 a down payment on the country's progress in meeting worldwide climate goals.

"With coronavirus vaccines now in distribution, we expect economic activity to pick up again in 2021, but without meaningful structural changes in the carbon intensity of the US economy, emissions will likely rise again as well."

The same report released in January 2020 found increased greenhouse gas emissions for the first time after three years of decline. In summer of 2020, Rhodium Group also released a report calculating the economic damage that achieved greenhouse gas emission reductions.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021 in Rhodium Group

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