A new study conducted by the independent research organization Rhodium Group found that U.S. greenhouse gas emissions bounced back significantly last year, jumping more than six percent over 2020, when the economy took a hit as a result of pandemic shutdowns.
“The strongest rebound and quickest rebound happened in freight. Those are diesel trucks picking up goods in the ports and bringing them to stores we shop at, the restaurants we eat in and taking packages to your door,” said Rhodium partner Kate Larsen. “The rebound we saw really was the most fossil intensive version.”
Transportation was already the nation’s largest emissions generator prior to the pandemic. However, with people stuck at home, online shopping increased dramatically, thus raising the demand for diesel beyond that of gasoline, according to The Verge. Additionally, high natural gas prices led to a 17 percent jump in coal-fired power generation – the first rise in nearly a decade, according to NBC News.
Rhodium’s preliminary analysis indicates that the U.S. is no longer on track to reach its 2025 and 2030 climate goals, though many had looked to the pandemic as a possible game changer.
“I think there was hope this moment the pandemic presented would change the way we do things, that it would be an opportunity to invest in the infrastructure we need to recover in a more sustainable way and that did not materialize. . . . the trajectory we’re on will get us nowhere close to our 2030 climate goals,” Larsen said.
When President Biden took office last year, he reaffirmed America’s commitment to the Paris climate agreement and pledged to cut peak 2005 emissions levels in half by the end of the decade.
To do so, however, the U.S. would need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions consistently year-over-year. Based on Rhodium’s research findings, 2021 was a big step in the wrong direction.