Since 2007, emissions in the United States have dropped a startling 9%, ending an entire century of rising emissions. And while many will be quick to point to the recession and high gas prices as the main cause for the flagging emissions, other factors, like increased energy efficiency and much more power coming from renewable sources, have played a prominent role as well. This is the focus of Lester Brown's piece in the Washington Post, which argues that the US has begun the long journey towards a clean energy economy, and is in a surprisingly good position to make a serious commitment to cutting carbon on a global level.
Consider: last year, oil usage fell 5%. Coal usage fell 1% (a relatively big deal, considering more than half the nation gets its power from coal). And overall carbon emissions fell 3%.
And Brown notes that proposals for coal plants are being rejected (the 100th plant proposal since 2001 was recently denied) and old, dirtier plants are being phased out and replaced with wind farms. All this, he argues, puts the US in a fine position to take the lead in climate talks--he says that though the climate bill that passed the House of Reps established a target of reducing emissions 15-20% by 2020, he thinks we could muster an 80% reduction.
As he says, the time for political feasibility is passing, and the time for scientific necessity is here--if the US were to make such a bold statement with strong targets, the world could be persuaded to follow suit. In his words:
Stabilizing the earth's climate is a complex undertaking and fraught with risk. If the United States leads -- and does so boldly -- I believe the world will follow.
More on US Carbon Emissions
Great New Google Earth Layer Maps US Carbon Emissions
Why Do Some States Have Significantly Lower Carbon Emissions Than Others