New research shows that U.S. planet-warming emissions rebounded in 2021, after a pandemic-related slowdown in 2020.
The preliminary estimate from research provider Rhodium Group shows that greenhouse gas emissions increased by 6.2 percent when compared to 2020, but remained 5 percent lower than in 2019.
In 2020, both the economy and fuel use slowed down as people remained in their homes due to the pandemic. The burning of fossil fuels is the biggest driver of climate change.
Both were expected to increase in 2021, as many people in the U.S. became vaccinated and began traveling more.
But, Rhodium Group’s finding indicates that emissions rebounded a little more quickly than the economy overall — as gross domestic product grew 5.7 percent year-over-year.
The research attributes this to an increase in the use of coal to generate power, which was up 17 percent, and a “rapid rebound” in road transportation, particularly freight.
The 2021 coal increase marked the first increase since 2014 for a fuel that has largely been declining.
When it’s burned, coal contributes more to climate change than other fuels, including other fossil fuels like oil and gas.
The rebound put the U.S. further away from achieving its climate goals as the country has pledged to cut its emissions 26 to 28 percent compared to 2005 levels by 2025 and 50 to 52 percent by 2030.
The emissions were previously 22.2 percent below 2005 levels, but are now only 17.4 percent lower, according to Rhodium Group.