First, the bad news: The Washington Post reported last week that after years of decline, the United States' carbon emissions rose two percent in 2013. It's a stark departure from a running decline that saw emissions fall 12 percent from 2005 and 2012. What gives? The paper reports that the rise is a result of U.S. utilities burning more coal and less natural gas last year due to price fluctuations. In short: low prices for natural gas, which had previously pushed utilities to switch from more-expensive coal, crept back up, and some utilities responded by shifting back to coal, which produces more CO2 emissions.
The new upward trajectory isn't the best news for President Obama, who has set a goal of reducing U.S. emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. However, the administration may take solace in the fact that energy-related carbon emissions in the U.S. are still 20 percent below 2005 level, according to the Post. And, the paper reports, the goals are still achievable. Click here for a more in-depth outlook on the path--and challenges--to reaching President Obama's 2020 climate goals.
And building practitioners, take heart: Architecture 2030 is reporting that the building sector is not following this overall emissions up-tick. Instead, the organization notes that the ninth straight year, building sector energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions are declining. This downward trajectory, which is good news, has been taking place since 2005, and also accounts for the 60 billion square feet of building stock that will be added between 2005 and 2030. Our buildings are only expected to get more efficient, too, according to Architecture 2030 and its analysis of a sneak peek at the U.S. Energy Information Administration's Annual Energy Outlook 2014. it's projected that American consumers will spend $4.61 trillion (with a T!) less on energy from now to 2030, and that by 2030, the average energy intensity (EI) for residential buildings will drop by 13.4 thousand Btu per square foot of floor area and commercial buildings' EI will drop by 17.5 thousand Btu per square foot of floor area.
Want to see how your specific city or state is faring in terms of carbon emissions? No problem: Fast Company's got the low-down on a new interactive map from the University of California, Berkeley's CoolClimate Network and Renewable and Appropriate Enregy Laboratory. that provides estimates for all of the country's 31,000 ZIP codes. How much does location play into your emissions footprint? You might be surprised. In my zip code, for instance, households similar to mine pump out an average of 51 tons of CO2 per year. However, if I were to move to, say, Cincinnati, however, my average output increases to 81.5 tons of CO2 per year. How does your region compare?