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Carbon Emission Shoots up in US

After three years of decline, U.S. carbon emissions shot up last year, based on early estimates from an independent research group. The Rhodium Group routinely monitors carbon emissions and their preliminary estimates suggest U.S. output was up 3.4 percent in 2018.

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A U.S. flag flies on tugboat as it passes the coal-fired Mitchell Power Plant on the Ohio River, in Moundsville, West Virginia, Sept. 10, 2017. (VOA)

After three years of decline, U.S. carbon emissions shot up last year, based on early estimates from an independent research group. The Rhodium Group routinely monitors carbon emissions and their preliminary estimates suggest U.S. output was up 3.4 percent in 2018.

This is the largest annual increase since 2010, when the nation was bouncing back from a financial crisis known as Great Recession.

The research also suggests that despite the Trump administration’s efforts to revive the coal industry, it continues to decline in the face of cheap and plentiful natural gas.

Bad news for coal

According to the Rhodium report, coal-fired plants generating 11.2 gigawatts of power had closed by October of last year, with more scheduled for closure over the following months. While the numbers are still preliminary, if they pan out, that would make 2018 the biggest coal plant closure year on record.

Far and away, natural gas is now the energy of choice in the U.S. with an increase of 166 million kilowatts per hour through October.

U.S. power consumption – and carbon emissions – increased in 2018. But the transportation sector of the economy contributed the most to the nation’s record emissions. The good news is that gasoline demand is down modestly, as the hybrid and electric car industry have begun to make a small dent in the demand for gasoline. But increases in the demand for diesel and jet fuel still made transportation the biggest source of carbon emissions throughout the U.S.

Another big source of emissions that often doesn’t get noticed, according to the report, is in the building sector of the economy. Emissions from buildings and homes was way up, due in part to an exceptionally cold winter in parts of the U.S. last year.

coal-fired Scherer Plant, one of the top carbon emitters in the U.S., is seen in Juliette, Georgia, June, 3, 2017. (VOA)

Paris question

2018 is an anomaly because each year, since 2015, U.S. carbon emissions had been decreasing, if modestly, as the nation worked to reach its commitments to the Paris Climate Agreement. U.S emissions declined by 2.7 percent in 2015, 1.7 percent in 2016, and 0.8 percent in 2017. But even with those reductions, the U.S. was already off track to meet reductions agreed to by the Obama administration.

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The U.S. joined almost 200 other countries to sign the agreement in 2015. Under the deal, the U.S. committed to cutting its carbon emissions by at least 26 percent from 2005 levels by 2025.

But the Trump administration announced its intention to pull the U.S. out of the deal this year, and will formally exit the global compact in 2020. (VOA)

Next Story

US Preschoolers on Government Food Aid Grown Less Pudgy: Study

Obesity rates dropped steadily to about 14% in 2016

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US, Preschoolers, Government
A photo shows a closeup of a beam scale in a Federal building in Washington, D.C., June 18, 2019. (Photo: Diaa Bekheet). Preschoolers on government food aid have grown a little less pudgy, a U.S. study found. A photo shows a closeup of a beam scale in a Federal building in Washington, D.C., June 18, 2019. (Photo: Diaa Bekheet). VOA

Preschoolers on government food aid have grown a little less pudgy, a U.S. study found, offering fresh evidence that previous signs of declining obesity rates weren’t a fluke.

Obesity rates dropped steadily to about 14% in 2016 — the latest data available — from 16% in 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

“It gives us more hope that this is a real change,” said Heidi Blanck, who heads obesity prevention at the CDC.

The results were published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

US, Preschoolers, Government
Preschoolers on government food aid have grown a little less pudgy. VOA

The improvement affected youngsters ages 2 through 4 who receive food vouchers and other services in the federal Women, Infants and Children nutrition program. About 1 in 5 U.S. kids that age were enrolled in 2016.

An earlier report involving program participants the same age found at least small declines in obesity in 18 states between 2008 and 2011. That was the first decline after years of increases that later plateaued, and researchers weren’t sure if it was just a blip.

Improvements in food options in that program including adding more fruits, vegetables and whole grains may have contributed to the back-to-back obesity declines, researchers said. Other data show obesity rates in 2016 were stable but similar, about 14 percent, for children aged 2 to 5 who were not enrolled in the program, Blanck noted.

While too many U.S. children are still too heavy, the findings should be celebrated, said Dr. William Dietz, a former CDC obesity expert. “The changes are meaningful and substantial.”

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Dietz said program changes that cut the amount of juice allowed and switched from high-fat to low-fat milk likely had the biggest impact. He estimated that amounted to an average of 9,000 fewer monthly calories per child.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends low-fat milk for children. It also suggests kids should limit juice intake and choose fresh fruits instead.

Further reducing U.S. childhood obesity will require broader changes — such as encouraging families and day care centers to routinely serve fruits, vegetables and whole grains; and employers to extend parental leave to make breastfeeding easier for new mothers, said Maureen Black, a child development and nutrition specialist at the University of Maryland.

Studies have shown breastfed infants are less likely than others to become obese later on. (VOA)