Recently the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its annual report on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and the news was relatively good for advocates of green living. What was particularly positive about the report is that the decline wasn't the result of a shrinking economy, as had been the case in 2009. In fact, U.S. GDP grew 2.8 percent in 2012, while CO2 emissions were down 3.8 percent.
Does this mean that the catastrophe of climate change has been averted and we have nothing to worry about? Not really. As environmental news site Grist notes, there's still quite a bit of action required on the part of both the U.S. and the globe to bring down emissions and make our economies more efficient. This is complicated by three factors:
- CO2 isn't the only greenhouse gas. Methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases all contribute to climate change, so they must also be the target of reduction efforts.
- The U.S. has to continue this decline in CO2 pollution for many years to reduce the effects of anthropogenic climate change. According to Grist, global emissions would have to be cut 60 percent by 2050 in order for the atmosphere to stabilize at 450 parts per million of CO2, which is considered a pretty optimistic, and unrealistic, goal.
- U.S. politicians don't control the actions of other governments, which means that even if we succeed in cutting emissions significantly, it won't mean much if other developing countries don't make similar efforts of their own accord.
Hopefully, the EIA's report will serve as motivation for environmental advocates and policy makers to continue those programs and efforts that are responsible for the progress that has been made.
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