Carbon Dioxide

U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions Fall 3 Percent

Global emissions flat for 3rd year in a row despite strong economic growth


Lasse Kristensen/Dreamtimes

The International Energy Agency is reporting data showing that economic growth is being increasingly decoupled from carbon dioxide emissions. Basically, human beings are using less carbon dioxide intensive fuels to produce more goods and services. The IEA attributes the relatively steep drop in U.S. emissions largely to the ongoing switch by electric generating companies from coal to cheap natural gas produced using fracking from shale deposits. Renewals also contributed a bit to the decline. From the IEA:

Global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions were flat for a third straight year in 2016 even as the global economy grew, according to the International Energy Agency, signaling a continuing decoupling of emissions and economic activity. This was the result of growing renewable power generation, switches from coal to natural gas, improvements in energy efficiency, as well as structural changes in the global economy.

Global emissions from the energy sector stood at 32.1 gigatonnes last year, the same as the previous two years, while the global economy grew 3.1%, according to estimates from the IEA. Carbon dioxide emissions declined in the United States and China, the world's two-largest energy users and emitters, and were stable in Europe, offsetting increases in most of the rest of the world.

The biggest drop came from the United States, where carbon dioxide emissions fell 3%, or 160 million tonnes, while the economy grew by 1.6%. The decline was driven by a surge in shale gas supplies and more attractive renewable power that displaced coal. Emissions in the United States last year were at their lowest level since 1992, a period during which the economy grew by 80%.

"These three years of flat emissions in a growing global economy signal an emerging trend and that is certainly a cause for optimism, even if it is too soon to say that global emissions have definitely peaked," said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA's executive director. "They are also a sign that market dynamics and technological improvements matter. This is especially true in the United States, where abundant shale gas supplies have become a cheap power source."

In 2016, renewables supplied more than half the global electricity demand growth, with hydro accounting for half of that share. The overall increase in the world's nuclear net capacity last year was the highest since 1993, with new reactors coming online in China, the United States, South Korea, India, Russia and Pakistan. Coal demand fell worldwide but the drop was particularly sharp in the United States, where demand was down 11% in 2016. For the first time, electricity generation from natural gas was higher than from coal last year in the United States.


In addition, China's emissions fell by one percent, suggesting that its use of coal to generate electricity may be close to peaking. This is good news for those who think that man-made global warming could become a signifcant problem later in this century. In any case, whatever else the Trump administration may say, domestic coal use ain't never coming back.

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  1. The IEA attributes the relatively steep drop in U.S. emissions largely to the ongoing switch by electric generating companies from coal to cheap natural gas produced using fracking from shale deposits Renewals also contributed a bit to the decline.

    Won’t someone please think of the wind turbines?

  2. were stable in Europe

    Can’t help but snigger at the EU’s precious anti-fracking attitude and how well it goes along with their snobbery. I don’t mean Europeans themselves, just the EU politicians and self-selected elites. And of course the French in general.

    1. As much as I like thumbing my nose at the cheese eating surrender monkeys, I am pretty sure that they get a solid plurality or maybe a majority of their power from nuclear power. They didn’t have to weather the ‘you can’t hug with nuclear arms’ crowd nearly as badly as we in the U.S. did.

      1. France used to get a huge amount of power from nuclear. They and Germany have started shutting down their nuclear power systems, says memory of news from the past few years. I think both aim to be nuclear-free within a few years.

  3. Trump did it! The magnificent bastard really did it!! Gaia is saved!!!

  4. But I though fracking is so terrible for the environment! The IEA is clearly a tool of Big Energy!

  5. CO2 doesn’t matter. When you can tell me to within some tight error bounds what ECS and TCR are, then we can talk about CO2. Until then, it’s just a whole lot of speculation.

    Well, not totally speculation, when small bands of subsistence farmers can produce enough crops – using ancient methods – to eke out a living in Greenland, then get back to me about warming.

  6. “domestic coal use ain’t never coming back.”

    Never is a very, very long time.

    Your prediction is almost certainly wrong.

    1. The energy prediction business has been a sucker’s game since whale oil supplies started to decline.

      1. I am running low on my spermaceti candles, so I hope the whale oil business picks up soon.

    2. Well metallurgical coal used for making steel will certainly continue anyway.

    3. Oil killed coal 80 years ago and it was never coming back. Then it came back. I do so love these arc of history doomsday predictions.

  7. Ron your last sentence reads a bit funny seeing how coal makes up 33 pct of the grid in the US which means there is domestic coal use

    When you quote emissions is it a total number? Also what is all considered renewable?

    I would say the drop is due to natural gas exclusively. The make up of the wind and solar in past two years is still pretty low

    Solar from .4 pct to .6 pct of us grid in 2 years while wind went 4.4 to 4.6 in 2 years. Nat gas was 29 to 34 in 2 years per eia

  8. This is good news for those who think that man-made global warming could become a signifcant problem later in this century.

    Fallen Angels. It’s happening, people. Stock up on thermal underwear.

  9. Is the drop in the united states from this to last year? I think so but not clear.

    Also i wouldnt trust China s numbers seeing how in 2015 they said whoops we are actually 17 pct higher then we led you to believe before agreement

  10. If global emissions were flat…that doesnt seem to be addressing the problem at all some folks claim it is. Also i dont understand lack of push for nuclear

    1. I blame Jane Fonda, Micheal Douglas, and Jack Lemon.

      1. *Jack Lemmon

    2. Environmentalists are mostly anti-science Luddites. That is why.

      Nuclear is and always has been the best way to produce CO2-free energy, economic arguments aside for the moment. Solar panels and wind turbines have relatively short lifespans and take up a lot of resources to create taken from dirty mines. Nuclear plants, once built, can last basically forever off of just water and uranium. The power density in nuclear reactor fuel is thousands of times greater than any traditional energy source, so the amount of fuel needed to is miniscule. We are even getting close to extracting uranium from the ocean at an economical scale, which could provide enough fuel for millenia.

      Nuclear is and always has been the way to go.

  11. One can assume that if CO2 falls to whatever the ‘safe’ level is, that of course no one seems interested in talking about since we’re at geologically historic lows of atmospheric CO2, that the left will find yet another boogeyman in order to ensure more people die. It’s not about industries effect upon the environment that gets these guys out of bed, it’s reducing the amount of people on Earth. You can tell since they’re talking about CO2 instead of, for instance, actual industrial waste products.

    Lets be honest, they’re against industrialization and against mankind in general.

    1. There’s a good argument to be made that human CO2 emissions have extended the habitability of the Earth for a few hundred thousand years longer. YOU’RE WELCOME NATURE.

      1. There’s also a good argument to be made that CO2 levels don’t drive global temperatures, but rather are a product of warmer temperatures themselves. What came first, the CO2 or the warming?

        Either way, global atmospheric CO2 concentrations have been as high as 3,000PPM (or higher) and a minimum of around ~170PPM are required for life to exist on Earth. Currently we’re somewhere around 300-400PPM. I’d like to hear more about how they think that 400+ PPM is somehow Earth-destroying when there is a geological record that proves that Earth would be perfectly fine, and that those concentrations are well within standard operating norms for the planet.

        It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the Sun drives our climate. CO2 is technically a greenhouse gas, but it’s not even as potent as water vapor. Guess what makes up over 80% of the surface of planet Earth?

        1. I like your newsletter and would like to subscribe

      2. If you take the largest bar on the chart and made a bar that 20X as tall (with my current desktop setup, I’d have to stack two more monitors on top). You get the *average* amount of CO2 *exchanged* *annually* by the biosphere.

        I’d couch your argument in a “We’ve had little effect, if any, and what effect we’ve had…” qualifier.

  12. So Ron, is this a good time to propose a new Carbon tax/trading scheme or nah?

    I’m sure Trump will be all about it.

  13. But, but, carbon credits! Need more government! Unpossible!

  14. I wonder if Ron has ever had to solve a PDE before?

  15. The biggest drop came from the United States, where carbon dioxide emissions fell 3%, or 160 million tonnes, while the economy grew by 1.6%.

    And yet we are universally reviled as being the reactionary anti-climate nation hellbent on destroying the planet. Maybe we should stop teaching our children that they alone are at fault the dying planet.

    1. That’s because the United States are the only one’s who care about the targets. Everyone else only cares about the transfer payments they receive from the United States.

  16. Global warming funding has about run it’s course. It’s time for the grant recipients and universities to find some other way to proclaim the end is nigh.

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