Economic slump, not drop in coal use, responsible for U.S. carbon emissions fall

Economic slump, not drop in coal use, responsible for U.S. carbon emissions fall

The 11% decrease in climate change-causing CO2 emissions in the U.S. between 2007 and 2013 was caused by the global financial recession instead of the reduced use of coal, says the study.

Findings of a new research conducted by a team of American scientists show that the 11% decrease in carbon emissions in the U.S. between 2007 and 2013 was caused by a global financial recession, not by a drop in coal use.

Experts from the University of California Irvine, the University of Maryland, and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, argue the wide-accepted assumption that a drop in emissions is a consequence of a shift toward natural gas, is just wrong.

In our results, natural gas plays a bit part in decreasing emissions,” Steven Davis, assistant professor of Earth system science at UCI and a co-author of the study said in a statement. “The real heroes are consuming less stuff and using energy more efficiently.”

Between 2007 and 2009, when U.S. emissions fell by 10%, there were changes in how much Americans consumed, what types of products they preferred, the balance of manufacturing and service industries, and the quantity of energy used per dollar of products produced.

Together, says the study, these changes account for more than three-quarters of the decrease in emissions between 1997 and 2013, with changes in the mix of fuels used to generate energy responsible for just 18%.

Davis and his co-authors conclude that without new policies that limit CO2 emissions, it may be difficult to keep emissions down as the U.S. economy continues to recover. And in fact, U.S. CO2 emissions rose in 2013 and 2014.