And the winner is… the American people! We can all give ourselves a (small) pat on the back because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has just published its 16th annual U.S. greenhouse gas inventory and it shows a decrease of overall emissions during 2009 of 6.1% from the previous year. That means that emissions in 2009 represent the lowest total U.S. annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions since 1995.
Now, before you start organizing the ticker-tape parade, you should understand that one of the primary reasons for the decrease was the economic downturn resulting in a decrease in energy consumption across all sectors. Meaning, upon economic recovery (c’mon already), the numbers may increase again. (Besides, the floats in those parades are total gas-guzzlers!)
The other primary reason cited by EPA for the decrease is lower carbon intensity of fuels used to generate electricity. (For more on developments relating to the regulation of GHGs at the state and national levels click here, here and here.)
By way of background, in 1992, the United States signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (known as the UNFCCC – yep, it wouldn’t be an environmental article without some crazy-long abbreviation). The goal of the UNFCCC is to achieve “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” As a part of the UNFCC, the parties agreed to develop, update and publish national inventories of GHG emissions and removals by sinks. To ensure that the inventory is comparable to those of other parties to the UNFCC, EPA used methodologies recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This consistency will allow the parties to the UNFCCC to compare the relative contribution of individual sources, cases and nations to climate change.
As the EPA states in the report, “an emissions inventory … is essential for addressing climate change.” I know you will be waiting with bated breath for the 17th annual inventory… and when that time comes, the GREENberg bLAWg will bring it to you!