Enjoy, Explore, and Protect the Planet Sierra Club Allegheny Group, Pennsylvania Chapter

Climate Change

PA’s Contribution to Global Warming Dips, but Coal Emissions Increase

Last week Environment America published the report Too Much Pollution: State and National Trends in Global Warming Emissions from 1990 to 2007.

The key findings of the report are that carbon dioxide from fossil fuel consumption increased nationwide by 19% between 1990 and 2007. Yet emissions peaked in many states in 2004 or 2005 and declined in 17 states and D.C. between 2004 and 2007-– well before the onset of the recession. Using energy more efficiently and switching to cleaner forms of energy played a role in reducing pollution.

Four Northeastern states – Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, and New York – and D.C. emitted less carbon dioxide from fossil fuel consumption in 2007 than they did in 1990. The biggest factor in all four states was a shift to cleaner forms of electricity. These four states cut their pollution levels by 5% since 1997, while increasing their gross state product by 65%.

So how did Pennsylvania fare? The Philadelphia-based organization PennEnvironment, which is associated with Environment America, issued an analysis of the Pennsylvania data in the report. Although Pennsylvania still ranks 3rd nationwide for the highest levels of global warming pollution, there is an encouraging trend. In 2007, Pennsylvania emitted 0.3% less global warming pollution than in 2004, the year in which pollution levels began to peak in many states.

According to PennEnvironment’s analysis, while emissions from most sectors fell or increased only slightly from 2004 to 2007 in Pennsylvania, carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants increased 18% from 1990 to 2007, and the rate of increase was faster from 2004 to 2007 than in earlier years. Clearly, Pennsylvania needs to be more aggressive in retiring its old coal-burning power plants.

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