A new report completed by the Public Interest Research Group has found that between 1960 and 2001, the United States’ emissions of carbon dioxide almost doubled with an increase of 95%. Not only has this been detrimental to the United States, but it has also affected the entire world with the United States now responsible for a staggering 25% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions while refusing to participate in international treaties regulating such emissions. As such, global warming and climate change is a reality for the world, and if it continues unabated, will threaten the Earth’s human and non-human residents with sea level rise, heat waves, draught, more intense hurricanes, decreased crop yields, and water shortages. Rather than falling off as awareness increases about the environmental effects of global warming caused by carbon dioxide emissions, the 1990s saw an increase of 1.5% per year with emissions growing by 1.7% in 2004 making 2005 the warmest year on record as global warming pollution has “grown out of control” according to the report.
Statistics cited from 2001 in the report place Michigan within the top ten for states with the most carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion, with Michigan ranking ninth in total emissions with 189.1 million metric tons. The 2001 numbers place Michigan in the top ten of states with the most emissions for all measured categories with the exception of oil, where Michigan ranked 11 out of 50. Thirty-one percent of the state’s emissions came from oil emissions as the state’s drivers have increased their miles traveled per year by 136% from 1960 to 2001, while the state’s coal emissions increased 21% since 1960. A recent study by the American Lung Association found that Michigan’s air quality rating was poor, suggesting that while emissions from carbon dioxide have increased at a rate lower than other states, air quality remains a serious concern in Michigan. The Great Lakes/Midwest region of which Michigan is a part had a 44% increase in emissions overall between 1960 and 2001, the smallest increase outside of the Northeast’s 12% increase. Of this increase, 40% was from coal emissions, 31% from oil emissions, and 29% from natural gas emissions.
While Michigan was not one of the twenty-eight states that doubled their carbon dioxide emissions over the study period, Michigan’s emissions are part of a disturbing national trend of increased emissions. Emissions have continued to grow due in large part to continued emissions from the electricity generation process and oil combustion used to power much of the United States’ transportation. Oil combustion alone accounted for 40% of the total increase in carbon dioxide emissions with the transportation sector increasing emissions by 150%. The continued reliance on coal power has also been responsible for nearly 40% of the emissions increases, with emissions from coal combustion for electricity generation increasing by 370%. Interestingly, emissions from industry have declined since 1966.
The report makes a series of broad recommendations calling for the reduction of emissions and reducing dependence on fossil fuels. To achieve these goals, the report urges the establishment of mandatory limits on emissions that will reduce emissions from today’s levels in 10 years, by 20% in 20 years, and by 80% by 2050. The report also urges that corporations and individuals work to reduce emissions by making homes and businesses more energy efficient, by purchasing and manufacturing more fuel-efficient vehicles, and by generating electricity from renewable sources. The report concludes that existing technology could substantially reduce global warming and that such technologies while making power plants more efficient, harnessing renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass, and making cars more fuel efficient, would also lessen the United States dependence on oil, reduce air pollution, protect wilderness areas threatened by oil drilling and mining, and even save consumers money.