U.S. greenhouse gas pollution increased 6.2% in 2021 over 2020 levels, fueled by a 17% jump in coal-fired electricity, according to a Rhodium report released this morning. While an increase in greenhouse gas pollution is not altogether surprising given the 10% emissions drop in 2020, it still puts the U.S. far off the Biden administration’s goal to cut climate pollution by 50-52% below 2005 levels by 2030. After last year’s increase, U.S. emissions are just 17.4% below 2005 levels. The Rhodium report is largely consistent with other recently-released reports from Carbon Monitor and the Energy Information Administration. “It really illustrates how much we’ve depended on cheap natural gas prices to keep coal in decline,” Kate Larsen, a partner at the Rhodium Group, told the New York Times.
“Overall, we still expect coal to decline further in the years ahead, but unless there are new policies put in place to clean up the power sector, the coal industry could see a bit of a lifeline if there are big swings in the gas market.” Also today, European scientists at the Copernicus Climate Change Service, released their analysis showing 2021 was the fifth hottest year ever recorded, with the hottest seven years all in the last seven years, with unabated methane pollution overcoming a cooling La Niña cycle. (Rhodium: Washington Post $, New York Times $, CNN, Axios, The Guardian; Copernicus temperature analysis: Bloomberg $, New York Times $, CBS; Both: CNBC; Other emissions reports: E&E News; Climate Signals background: Land surface temperature increase)