Eleanor Hildebrandt | January 19, 2021
Greenhouse gas emissions rose more than six percent in 2021 after a nearly 10 percent drop in 2020.
Emissions rose as the economy began bouncing back from the initial economic decline from the COVID-19 pandemic hitting the U.S. As in-person work returned, in several sectors, coal plants came back. Estimates published in early January by the Rhodium Group, the emissions remain five percent below 2019 levels regardless of the increase. The 10 percent drop in 2020 was the biggest plummet on record, according to the New York Times.
Coal, the fossil fuel that pollutes the most, made a strong comeback in 2021. Last year there was 17 percent rise in emissions from coal-fired power plants. In 2020, there was a 19 percent decline.
President Joe Biden has set a goal of decreasing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent below 2005 levels in the next eight years. The goal matches what most climate scientists say is needed to keep the Earth from warming more than 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit and minimizing catastrophic climate events. As of the newest report, the U.S.’s emissions are 17.4 percent below 2005 levels.
Other reports, however, suggest the Biden administration’s efforts will not be met. The World Resources Institute reported in December 2021that the world must reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions to be successful in climate cooling goals. WRI’s findings show the Biden administration’s goals are not enough.