CO2 Pollution Stabilizes, Despite Continued World Growth

By Michael Beveridge ’17

CO2 Pollution Stabilizes

For the first time in over 40 years, increasing growth has not resulted in an increase in global CO2 emissions.  Renewables like solar and wind power have grown large enough to keep global emissions at 32.3 billion metric tons in 2013 and 2014.

“This is both a very welcome surprise and a significant one” said International Energy Agency Chief Economist, Fatih Birol.  This revelation has shown that efforts to halt and reverse climate change may be more effective than previously thought as well as showing that growth and pollution are slowly decoupling.  These results should help to bring some momentum into climate change talks being held in Paris later this year.

Ironically, much of the progress is being credited to China, one of the world’s worst polluters.  Its increase in solar, wind, and hydropower and a decreased reliance on coal helped it to shrink CO2 emissions by 2%.  In addition to China’s turnaround, Western Europe’s sustainable, green-energy focus has also been credited for a large contribution to global efforts to stem climate change.

In the US, the carbon intensity, or the CO2 per dollar of GDP, has declined steadily for the past 25 years, but in a sharply gridlocked Congress, the renewable energy’s progress is painfully slow.  Fortunately, the US has over 609 million acres of land protected from private development.  These preserved ecosystems have the potential to store tons of carbon dioxide while also maintaining delicate ecosystems.  However, even these are threatened by champions of states’ rights, but at least in the short run, there seems to be no legal precedent to force the Federal government to cede these lands.


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