Skip to main content

See also:

EPA releases climate report in anticipation of new power plant regulation

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released the third edition of a climate change report on Wednesday. The report provides an outreach effort to educate the public on the science of climate change.

Coal power plants responsible for big piece of carbon emissions
Coal power plants responsible for big piece of carbon emissionsPhoto by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

But the timing of Wednesday’s report, only a week before the expected Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule to reduce carbon emissions of existing electric power plants, seems more than coincidental.

Electric generation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. It represents 32 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions since 1990, according to the EPA report.

As with the United States, the majority of the world’s emissions of greenhouse gas emissions result from electric generation, transportation, and other forms of energy production and use.

“[C]limate change is a serious problem and is happening now here in the U.S. and around the world,” said Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, in a prepared statement that accompanied EPA’s release of the report.

In the U.S., during the period 1990 to 2012, emissions of carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas emitted by human activities, increased by 5 percent.

Carbon dioxide accounts for most of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions and most of the increase since 1990. Carbon dioxide is one of four main greenhouse gases. The others are methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases.

A series of events have come together to highlight the intersection between energy and environmental policy, and the tension between federal policy and the limits placed upon federal action by the U.S. Constitution.

Wednesday’s climate change indicators report provides science-based climate change measurements. It serves to emphasize the need for greater limits on carbon emissions by electric generators.

The anticipated June 2, 2014 proposed Environmental Protection Agency rule to reduce carbon emissions by existing power plants will seek to reduce carbon emissions by existing power plants. But the anticipated proposed federal rule also could influence the availability and diversity of electric generation.

Last week’s U.S. appellate decision overturning a federal rule to promote a wholesale market for "demand response," which treats customer reductions in electricity use as a substitute for electric generation, likely will reduce the availability of this demand response as a resource for electric grid operators to balance electric generation with customer demands, one key ingredient to maintain grid reliability.

Together, these events emphasize the impact each could have on the price and availability of electricity.

The key measures of climate change discussed in the report released Wednesday include U.S. and global temperature and precipitation, ocean heat and ocean acidity, sea level and length of growing season.