After three years of decline, U.S. carbon emissions spiked in 2018
Updated 14:34, 12-Jan-2019
Alok Gupta
Carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. soared last year by 3.4 percent for the first time marking “the second largest annual gain in more than two decades”, a report released on Tuesday said.
A similar spike was reported in 2010 – a rebound after the great recession  when emission rose by nearly 3.6 percent. Power sector contributed massively with emission increasing by nearly 1.9 percent, despite the closure of “record number” of coal-fired plants.
The carbon release from the sector is attributed to the increase in natural-gas-fired power plants. While natural gas emits nearly half as much as coal, it still has a significant carbon footprint.
The data indicated transportation sector continues to be “the largest source of US emissions for the third year running.” Buildings and industrial sector also registered significant year-on-year gains.
“Some of this [increase in emissions] was due to unusually cold weather at the start of the year,” researchers from Rhodium Group, an independent economic research organization maintained.
With the Great Recession of 2008 playing a pivotal role, emission slowed at an average rate of 1.6 percent per year, from 2007 to 2015 it declined by 12.1 percent. But since 2016, the pace of U.S. emissions decline has slowed, from 2.7 percent in 2015 to 1.7 percent in 2016 to 0.8 percent in 2017
“We estimate that U.S. power sector emissions rose by 34 million metric tons in 2018, compared to a decline of 78 million metric tons in 2017 and a 61 million metric ton average annual decline between 2005 and 2016,” researchers calculated. 
At the present emission rate, it would be nearly impossible for the U.S. – world's second largest emitter  to meet the climate pledge agreed during the Paris Climate Change Agreement in 2015.
Last year, in November, the U.S. administration's fourth national climate assessment report warned, climate change will severely hit country's economy, with GDP nose-diving by nearly 10 percent at the end of the century. The extreme weather events triggered by rising temperature would kill hundreds of Americans, the report said.
Despite warnings by researchers, President Donald Trump announced to withdraw from the Paris Climate deal in 2015. Recently, at G20 meet in Argentina, the U.S. diplomats reiterated the decision to shelve the climate accord.
“To meet the Paris Agreement target of a 26-28 percent reduction from 2005 levels by 2025, the US will need to reduce energy-related CO2 emissions by 2.6 percent on average over the next seven years,” researchers suggested.   
(Top Image: Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump attend a political rally at Charleston Civic Center in Charleston, West Virginia, August 21, 2018. /VCG Photo)