Global Warming and Greenhouse Gas Emissions


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Global Warming and Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Overall, emissions of CO2 increased by 0.3% to 6.8 tons per person in the United States. Emissions of greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide, which account for 17% of total greenhouse gas emissions, declined by 0.6%.

Emissions from the industrial sector declined 1.3% even though the U.S. economy grew 3.9% in 1998. However, CO2 emissions from transportation grew by 2.4% while CO2 emissions of regulated utilities expanded by 3.2% as a result of a hotter than normal summer.
Overall, 1999 U.S. greenhouse gas emissions were about 10.7 percent higher than 1990 emissions, which are estimated at 1,655 million metric tons carbon equivalent. The 1.1-percent average annual growth in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 to 1999 compares with average growth rates of 1.0 percent for the U.S. population, 1.5 percent for energy consumption, 2.2 percent for electric power generation, and 3.1 percent for real GDP
Table ES2. U.S. Emissions of Greenhouse Gases, Based on Global Warming Potential, 1990-1999
(Million Metric Tons Carbon Equivalent)
Gas 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 P1999
Carbon Dioxide 1,351 1,338 1,365 1,397 1,422 1,435 1,484 1,505 1,507 1,527
Methane 182 183 183 178 179 179 173 172 168 165
Nitrous Oxide 99 101 103 103 111 106 105 104 103 103
HFCs, PFCs, and SF6 24 22 24 24 25 29 33 35 40 38
Total 1,655 1,644 1,675 1,702 1,737 1,748 1,796 1,816 1,818 1,833
P = preliminary data.Note: Data in this table are revised from the data contained in the previous EIA report, Emissions of Greenhouse Gases in the United States 1998, DOE/EIA-0573(98) (Washington, DC, October 1999).Sources: Emissions: Estimates presented in this report. Global Warming Potentials: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Climate Change 1995: The Science of Climate Change (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996).

Energy End-Use Sector Sources of U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions, 1990-1999
Sector Million Metric Tons Carbon Equivalent PercentChange
1990 1999 1990-1999 1998-1999
Transportation 431.8 496.1 14.9% 2.9%
Industrial 454.8 481.2 5.8% 0.2%
Commercial 207.7 243.5 17.2% -0.4%
Residential 254.2 290.1 14.1% 0.4%
Note: Electric utility emissions are distributed across sectors.
Total carbon dioxide emissions from the residential sector increased by 0.4 percent in 1999 (Table 6). Year-to-year, residential sector emissions are heavily influenced by weather. For example, in 1996, a relatively cold year, carbon dioxide emissions from the residential sector grew by 5.9 percent over 1995. In 1997, they declined by 0.

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4 percent due to warmer weather.


Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most the most troublesome greenhouse gas that comes from human activities - mostly from burning hydrocarbon fuels. From the last ice age until the industrial revolution in the last century (about 10,000 years), the atmospheric level of CO2 had varied only about 5%. But beginning with the industrial revolution and projecting forward to about 2030, the amount of atmospheric CO2 will have doubled - all in about 150 years time.
The atmospheric concentrations of several greenhouse gases are rising as a result of human activity. Carbon dioxide, the most important human-made greenhouse gas, is released primarily by the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas. Its concentration has risen by nearly 30% over its value in pre-industrial times. Concentrations of other greenhouse gases have also risen; methane levels have more than doubled and nitrous oxide levels are increasing as well.
Carbon dioxide is released to the atmosphere when solid waste, fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, and coal), and wood and wood products are burned.
Each greenhouse gas differs in its ability to absorb heat in the atmosphere. HFCs and PFCs are the most heat-absorbent. Methane traps over 21 times more heat per molecule than carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide absorbs 270 times more heat per molecule than carbon dioxide. Often, estimates of greenhouse gas emissions are presented in units of millions of metric tons of carbon equivalents (MMTCE), which weights each gas by its GWP value, or Global Warming Potential.
Emissions also vary based on the state you live in. Several factors can affect the emissions per person in a state, for example, the types of fuel used to generate electricity, population and vehicle miles traveled (people tend to drive longer distances in sparsely populated areas), and whether fossil fuels are extracted or processed within the state.

Today, action is occurring at every level to reduce, to avoid, and to better understand the risks associated with climate change. Many cities and states across the country have prepared greenhouse gas inventories; and many are actively pursuing programs and policies that will result in greenhouse gas emission reductions.

At the national level, the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) coordinates the world's most extensive research effort on climate change. In addition, EPA and other federal agencies are actively engaging the private sector, states, and localities in partnerships based on a win-win philosophy and aimed at addressing the challenge of global warming while, at the same time, strengthening the economy.


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