Draft administration report shows US greenhouse emissions rising faster

Posted: 6 March 2007

The United States will emit about 20 per cent more greenhouse gases by 2020 than it did in 2000, according to a draft report that the Bush administration was scheduled to submit to the United Nations a year ago. ENS reports:

The internal administration report, which was obtained by the Associated Press, estimates that US emissions of greenhouse gases from the burning of coal, oil, and natural gas will rise from 7.7 billion tons in 2000 to 9.2 billion tons in 2020 - an increase of 19.5 per cent.

The growth in emissions was expected, but highlights how out of touch the Bush administration is with world opinion and the efforts of other countries to curb climate change.

Snowpack reductionThe White House Council on Environmental Quality, CEQ, which is responsible for the draft report, says that how much the administration can do to cut emissions beyond merely slowing the rate of increase will become clear "as the science justifies."

Measuring the snowpack on Mt. Hood
Measuring the snowpack on Mt. Hood
Measuring the snowpack on Oregon's Mt. Hood, 2003. The CEQ draft report predicts less snow in the Pacific Northwest as the climate warms. Photo courtesy © Oregon State University
The report forecasts increasing droughts and "a distinct reduction" in the spring snowpack covering the northwestern states, which supplies most of the region's drinking water.

The United States currently is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases - responsible for about one-quarter of the world's emissions.

When President George W. Bush took office in 2001, one of his first acts was to repudiate the Kyoto Protocol signed by President Bill Clinton, and it has never been sent to the US Senate for ratification.

The protocol, an amendment to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, requires most industrialized countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 per cent below 1990 levels by the end of 2012.

EU on trackThe latest projections from pre-2004 EU Member States (EU-15) show that greenhouse gas emissions could be brought down to eight per cent below 1990 levels by 2010. An October report by the European Environment Agency, EEA, shows that "if all existing and planned domestic policy measures are implemented and Kyoto mechanisms as well as carbon sinks are used, the EU-15 will reach its Kyoto Protocol target."

The next 10 new EU member states also are on track to achieve their individual Kyoto targets, despite rising emissions, largely due to economic restructuring in the 1990s, says the EEA. The two most recent EU member states were not part of the block last October when the report was produced.

President Bush has said that abiding by the Kyoto Protocol would hurt the US economy. He has argued that voluntary emissions reductions and better technology such as clean coal, nuclear power, and energy efficiency would do the job of limiting global warming.

The CEQ says its final version of the report will "show that the President's portfolio of actions and his financial commitment to addressing climate change are working."

Coal-fired power plant in Wyoming
Coal-fired power plant in Wyoming
The coal-fired Dave Johnston power plant in Wyoming burns sub-bituminous coal. Photo courtesy © Greg Goebel
The draft US report comes one month after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, issued their strongest warning to date - finding that global warming is occurring, that humans are "very likely" responsible, and that warming is expected to continue for centuries, even if greenhouse gas emissions are curbed at once.

The IPCC report was endorsed by 113 governments, including the United States.

The US states are taking the initiative from the federal government with four regional programmes to curb greenhouse gas emissions. California has led the field by aiming to cut its emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and to meet the target of 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050.

A CEQ spokesperson blamed the delay in submitting the report to the United Nations on an "extensive interagency review process."

The Board of Directors of the American Association for the Advancement of Science warned at its annual meeting in February that, "Delaying action to address climate change will increase the environmental and societal consequences as well as the costs. The longer we wait to tackle climate change, the harder and more expensive the task will be," the scientists said.

(Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2006. All Rights Reserved.)