Running Out of Time

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants rose 2.9 percent in 2007, the biggest single-year increase since 1998, according to new data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Emissions of carbon dioxide from the electric power industry have risen 5.9 percent since 2002, and 11.7 percent since 1997. The current debate over global warming policy tends to focus on the long-term, e.g., whether and how we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 or 90 percent over the next fifty years.

But, even as we grapple with these long-term goals, rising emissions from U.S. power plants  are making an already dire situation worse. Because CO2 has an atmospheric lifetime of between 50 and 200 years, today’s emissions could cause global warming for up to two centuries to come. This report evaluates the recent power plant data from EPA, which suggest that we must start to reduce carbon dioxide emissions now, before it is too late.