These 13 U.S. States Saw Carbon Pollution Go Up Over a Decade

These 13 U.S. States Saw Carbon Pollution Go Up Over a Decade

Published: 2015-11-05 | Original Article
Attribution By Christina Nunez, National Geographic

As a new UN climate accord nears, countries are pushing to cut carbon emissions. Yet in parts of the U.S., the opposite is happening.

Percentage change in energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, 2000-2013 

36 states and the District of Columbia have decreased their carbon dioxide emissions since 2000. Maine's emissions decreased the most in the nation, plunging 27.4%. Nebraska had the largest increase in emissions, with a 27.6 percent increase.

Some U.S. states, such as Maine, are already well on their way to meeting new federal targets aimed at curbing emissions of carbon dioxide. But 13 states have been moving in the opposite direction. While levels of the heat-trapping greenhouse gas went down in 37 states and the District of Columbia between 2000 and 2013, they actually increased in 13 states, according to figures recently released by the Energy Information Administration. Nebraska saw the biggest rise: Carbon emissions jumped 28 percent, mostly because of higher coal use for electricity and industry. Maine, which gets three fifths of its power from renewable sources such as hydropower and biomass, saw the biggest drop: 27 percent.

State energy-related carbon dioxide emissions
2000-2013, in metric tons
Large states such as Texas and California dominate carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. Of the larger U.S. states, New York has had one of the largest reductions in emissions since 2000, dropping over 24 percent.

Not surprisingly, all but one of those 13 states have joined lawsuits to stop the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan, which sets state emission targets to cut carbon pollution from power plants by 32 percent from 2005 levels. The rules, a key piece of the U.S. commitment to address climate change ahead of UN-led talks later this year in Paris, encourage greater use of natural gas and renewable energy, drawing opposition from states that rely heavily on coal for electricity generation.

The trend lines in EIA's data, above, show that the carbon reductions aren't assured going forward. Economic growth has pushed emissions back up slightly in recent years, an uptick visible across the board. (See a chart that explores the uptick through 2014.)

Attribution By Christina Nunez, National Geographic